Decorated initial B

y the time Queen Victoria came to the throne the mediaevalism, which was one of the most pervasive influences on the decorative design of the nineteenth century, was beginning to affect the shape of jewellery to a considerable extent. 'The forms of our bijous are now entirely borrowed from the style of the Middle Ages . . .', says the World of Fashion 1839. By the thirties the mediaeval mania was in full possession of the fashionable imagination, but specifically Gothic elements were not in- corporated into jewellery design until the beginning of the following decade. In 1829 the Duchesse de Berry organised the 'Quadrille Marie Stuart' with costumes by the artist Deveria and jewellery of immense value remounted in the style of the sixteenth century by Bapst the jeweller to the French Court. This was the fore-runner of a whole series of mediaeval entertainments and balls, a form of entertainment which remained popular until the end of the century. One proposal which was dropped, presumably on account of expense, was to mount a tournament to be followed by a mediaeval ball at the time of the Queen's coronation, an undertaking that would indeed have proved very costly if the expenses incurred by Lord Eglinton for the famous 'Eglinton Tournament' are anything to go by. The Eglinton Tournament was held in the summer of 1839; it lasted for three days and was entirely ruined by torrential rain which flooded the temporary ballroom put up for the occasion and drenched the magnificent costumes; in the final reckoning it was revealed as having cost Lord Eglinton £40,000. One or two prints remain of the occasion, including a series by the painter of fairy scenes, Richard (Dicky) Doyle, but few which show the costumes in any detail, except for the portrait of Lady Jane Seymour, who was chosen as the Queen of Beauty, shown wearing a chain of diamonds round her throat and a crown encrusted with pearls. In the portrait of Lady [40/42] Sykes, painted in 1837, by Daniel Maclise (Plate 13), the sitter is wearing the kind of dress and jewellery which would have been considered suitable for an occasion of this sort, a typical early Victorian interpretation of mediaeval dress which is most unlike the William Morris-inspired mediaeval dress of the Aesthetes and artistic dressers of the sixties and seventies.

Left: Plate 13. Lady Sykes by Daniel Maclise, R. A. 1837. Courtesy of Sir Francis Sykes. Right: Plate 14. Queen Victoria as Queen Philippa. Illustrated London News, 1842. The Queen is shown in the costume which she wore for the Plantagenet Ball, given on May 12th 1842. Prince Albert chose the characters, Edward III and Queen Philippa, and designed the costumes for both himself and his wife.

The idea that it would be possible to revive the ideals of the age of chivalry by staging this costly entertainment was domed to failure; the more mundane purpose of the 'Spitalfields' ball, being more practical, had at least a temporary success. Designed to relieve the distress in the Spitalfields weaving industry, the expenditure of large sums of money on elaborate costumes was just what was required, but the Spitalfields silk industry had already passed the peak of its prosperity by the end of the eighteenth century and a quarter of a century later its situation was desperate; in spite of the temporary alleviation of the situation afforded by the Royal attempt to prevent the now inevitable collapse the decline continued, and the commercial treaty with France in 1860 which permitted the unrestricted importation of cheap machine-made silk was the death blow to the ailing industry. The ball, which was held on May 12th 1842, was organised by Prince Albert and he and the Queen attended it dressed as King Edward III and Queen Philippa; the occasion was described and illustrated in the first issue of the Illustrated London News as follows:

The costume of one of the characters, that of the Earl of Chesterfield, cost £800. Lord Pembroke borrowed for the night ten thousand pounds worth of diamonds from Storr and Mortimer, at one per cent . . . Her Majesty's display of jewels was of immense value. From the upper part of the robe was suspended a description of pendant stomacher of the intrinsic worth of £60,000.' (Plate 14)

All the costumes for the ball were supposed to have been supervised by J.R. Planche, author of the influential British Costume 1848, and the Dictionary of Costume 1877.

The jewels said to have been worn by the Queen on this occasion were given to the London Museum in 1920 by the Marchioness of Milford Haven, the entry in the Museum catalogue describes the set of jewellery as follows: [43/44]

'Rococco jewellery in the style of the XVIth century. Formerly belonging to Queen Victoria, and worn by her at a fancy dress ball, in the character of Philippa, consort of Edward III.' (Plate 15; see immediately below).

The drawing from the Illustrated London News confirms as far as one can see that these were the jewels worn by the Queen, though the value mentioned for the pendant does make for some confusion as £60,000 is really a very large sum for a jewel of any kind other than a precious stone of exceptional size and quality.

Plate 15. Jewellery worn by the Queen at the Plantagenet Ball 1842. Courtesy of the London Museum. The jewellery worn by the Queen on this occasion was described in the Illustrated London News as follows: '. . . Her Majesty's display of jewels was of immense value. From the upper part of the robe was suspended a description of pendant stomacher of the instrmsic worth of £60,000'

The issue is further confused by the fact that in the double portrait of the Queen and Prince Albert in the costumes worn for this ball, painted by Landseer, the Queen is wearing quite different jewellery. The Queen made a note of her costume for the ball on the sketch attached to the entry in her journal for May 12th, 1842, but she does not describe the jewellery, nor is it very clearly shown in the sketch where she appears to be wearing a crown and a necklace of two rows of beads (possibly pearls as in the Landseer portrait).

Mediaeval balls, which seem in most cases to have been an excuse for wearing any kind of historical costume, continued to be given throughout the nineteenth century, a preference for this period being partly due to the continuing popularity of the works of Sir Walter Scott. Scott was a passionate antiquarian; he owned a collection of mediaeval armour which would have delighted the latter-day heroes of the Eglinton Tournament, many of whom had managed to find genuine old armour to wear for that occasion. He was also responsible for bringing to light some ancient jewellery which had not been seen for over a hundred years. In 1818 he realised a long-held ambition when he prevailed upon the Prince Regent to allow him to search for the Crown Jewels of Scotland. Some doubt existed as to their whereabouts, it was even thought that they might have been appropriated by the British at the time of their disappearance, but they were found where they had been deposited in 1707 in the Great Jewel Chest in the Crown Room at [44/46] Edinburgh Castle. The jewel chest was duly opened and to the relief of those present there lay the Regalia wrapped in their linen coverings, exactly as they had been left in 1707. To Scott's horror one of the ladies present proposed to try on the crown, which was composed of two circles of gold, the uppermost supporting flews de lys alternating with crosses fleurees and pinnacles of gold topped with large pearls. The lower circle was set with topazes, amethysts, emeralds, rubies and jacynths, all uncut, interspersed with oriental pearls.

The discovery of the Scottish Regalia slightly pre-dates the mania for mediaeval jewellery, but the moment chosen by Francois Desirée Froment-Meurice to incorporate specifically Gothic elements into jewellery design in the early forties, was propitious for attempting this innovation. The Romantic move- ment was still a strong influence on fashion and design, and all classes of society in France displayed a great enthusiasm for the history of their country, particularly for the art and architecture of the Gothic church and life of the court in the time of Francois Is or Henri III. Son of a silversmith, Froment Meurice had been brought up in his father's workshop and from the earliest age had set out to master the exacting techniques of working in this metal; it is not surprising that he should choose this as the medium for his 'Gothic' jewellery, the decorative features of these jewels are taken mainly from Gothic architectural details and from ecclesiastical sculpture, neccessitating a rather sculptural style to which silver was particularly well adapted. Froment-Meurice had studied drawing and sculpture during his apprenticeship and his training had made him aware of the difficulties of combining these diverse techniques in jewellery design, so he surrounded himself with an artistic elite of sculptors, engravers and enamellers (among them the neo-classic sculptor Pradier who was responsible for the figures on the bracelet made in 1841 pi. 16a) whose skills were combined in the production of the more elaborate pieces. This type of Gothic jewellery rapidly became popular in France and the design and manufacture of similar pieces was undertaken by jewellers like Rudophi (Plate 16a) and Wagner, the German jeweller to whom Froment-Meurice had been apprenticed. By 1851 the work of all these men was becoming known in this country through illustrations in periodicals like the Art Journal and The Journal of Design [46/47] and the pieces shown at the Great Exhibition were much admired.

Plate 16a. Bracelet in silver incorporating a vinaigrette. Inscr. 'Pradier, statuaire F.D. Froment Meurice orfevre. 1841'. Courtesy of the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris. The choice of the neo-classic sculptor Pradier to execute the figures on this bracelet differentiate it from Froment-Meurice's Gothic style.

George Augustus Sala, writing about this period in Notes and Sketches of the Paris Exhibition which appeared in 1868, said: 'I have heard ere now the revival of taste in the mediaeval and Renaissance art ascribed to the late Mr Pugin, to "Tracts for the Times" and to John Ruskin; but to my mind this revivalism must be traced much further back. Its real source is in the novels of Sir Walter Scott.'

Plate 16b. Gothic bracelet in silver by F.D. Froment-Meurice. c. 1850. Courtesy of the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris.

Certainly Vever, in La Bijouterie Francaise au XIXe Siecle, cites Sir Walter Scott as an influence on the French jewellers of the [47/49] Gothic revival and his influence on English decorative art was very extensive, but it was A.N.W. Pugin who gave substance to the Gothic idea! of decoration with his unendingly prolific production of ideas for Gothic ornament and decoration.

Pugin's marriage jewellery, designed for his intended third wife; which became the model for mediaeval jewellery design in this country, was shown in the Mediaeval Court at the Great exhibition in 1851.

Plate 17. Necklace with pendant cross, brooch and head-band. Enamelled gold set with garnets and pearls designed by A.W.N. Pugin in 1847, made by John Hardman and Company, Birmingham, 1848. Part of the set of jewellery shown in the Mediaeval Court at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

His strongly ecclesiastical interpretation of the mediaeval style was to have a considerable influence on the jewellery design of the second half of the nineteenth century, principally on designs for ecclesiastical jewellery but also on the fashionable quasi-religious style, the ubiquitous crosses which constitute a considerable part of the surviving jewellery from this period.

All classes of Victorian society were deeply affected by the religious revival, and pace G.A. Sala, both Pugin and the Catholic revival and Newman's Tracts for the Times had their influence on the mediaevalist designers. The inspiration of Pugin's jewellery [49/50] comes directly from the decorative motifs on his ecclesiastical metalwork, as is apparent from the detail of the enamel decoration in the drawing of a chalice designed in 1850, which was also shown in the Great Exhibition. Inevitably the style of this set of marriage jewellery, which was greatly admired at the Exhibition, was extensively copied in the following years. The highly original treatment of the enamel decoration as an integral part of the design rather than simply as an embellishment to the goldsmith's work had not been used before. The enamel in the 'Renaissance' jewellery which Froment-Meurice was making at this time was used simply to colour the metal-work realistically in the same way [50/52] as it had been used in the French botanical jewellery in the early years of the century. It is to a large extent the misunderstanding of the importance of this interplay between the colour of the stones and the enamel decoration which led to most of the later Puginesque designs being so unsuccessful. But this is not the only reason, like all the most remarkable jewellery designs, this set was inspired by a particular occasion and made for a particular person, like, among other striking pieces, Burges' beautiful designs for the Marquess of Bute. These jewels of Pugin's represent part of a whole romantic vision of a mediaeval ceremony over every detail of which he was prepared to take great pains as is shown by the letters he exchanged with his intended bride, some of which are quoted below.

During the five years which elapsed between the death of his second wife and the time of his marriage to his third wife Jane Knill, Pugin made two attempts to marry again, the second reaching a stage at which he believed himself justified in undertaking extensive alterations and redecorations to his house and in designing clothes and jewellery for his bride to wear for the marriage ceremony. His confidence was misplaced and the engagement was broken off to Pugin's great distress; at this point he issued a statement, intended for private circulation, to explain the circumstances which led to the break-down of his plans. In this document he quotes at length from letters written by himself and those received by him from his intended bride, which refer at some length to the designing of the jewellery. The name of the young lady was suppressed in Benjamin Ferrey's book Recollections of A.N. Welby Pugin (1861) but it is now known to be Helen Lumsden.1 A.N.W. Pugin's statement contains the following references to the jewellery which was designed and made between November 1847 when he and Miss Lumsden became engaged, and August 10th 1848 when he married his third wife, Jane Knill, who wore the jewellery which had been altered to fit her. The following are extracts from the 'Statement' as it appears in Ferrey's Recollections:

'As soon as my union with Miss L[. . . ] had been definitely arranged, I immediately proceeded to make the necessary arrangements, by altering and completing my residence, making new furniture, plate, &c., and providing dresses, [52/53] jewellery, &c., with the full knowledge and approbation of MissL[...].'

Extract from a Letter, February 7th 1848.

'I am full of work at the house, improving everything before you come, so that we shall have nothing to do but enjoy the place afterwards . . . You have no idea of the work we have to get done by Easter. I have between thirty and forty people working different ways. There are five at your jewellery at Birmingham; of course I cannot pretend to vie in intrinsic value with thousands of people; but no woman, not excepting the Queen, will have better ornaments, as regards taste, as you will.' [53/54]

The jewellery was being made by Hardman's of Birmingham, ecclesiastical metalworkers, who were one of the firms employed by Pugin to execute his designs. They were not accustomed to making jewellery and Pugin appears from his correspondence with them to have been somewhat dissatisfied with the results, but the Queen did admire the jewellery when she saw it on Hardman's stand in the Mediaeval Court.

There are further passages in the 'Statement' referring to the jewellery, this time extracts from Miss Lumsden's letters:

'I will send you the pattern of the dress directly it comes home, and also the size of the bracelets — how beautiful they will be!' The next letter was accompanied by a ring and a piece of tape. 'The ring is rather a tight fit for my third finger; a size larger would fit my second; the tape is the size of my head.'

'My dearest Augustus, I send you the pattern of a dress; the piece of tape is the length of the skirt, the back, and where the pin is put, the length of the front; the slip of paper is the proper length of a bracelet . . .'

Pugin concludes rather plaintively with an estimate of the cost of this abortive attempt to marry:

'All the things made for her being of the most costly description and in the first style of ancient art, amounted to large sums of money — including the alterations and various matters connected with this unhappy business, altogether more than two thousand pounds.'

According to the records preserved by Hardman's the sum expended by Pugin on the jewellery amounted to £255.9.6. including the provision of a jewel-casket. The whole set of jewellery consisted of a brooch, set with garnets, turquoises and pearls, the centre part decorated with translucent green enamel; a necklace with a pendant cross, set with garnets and pearls, and decorated with blue and green enamel; a head-band, gold' enamelled in green and white set with diamonds, pearls, turquoises and a garnet (Plate 17), all now in the Victoria and Albert Museum; and an 'M' monogram brooch, a pair of earrings and a ring. These pieces, with the other important piece of jewellery — a large 'Greek' cross with the same type of decoration, on a chain of [54/56] quatrefoil links — were all shown at the 1851 Exhibition and were illustrated in The Industrial Arts of the XIXth Century by Matthew Digby Wyatt (1851-1853).

In spite of the fact that this marriage never took place the preparations were not in vain; the jewellery was worn by Pugin's third wife Jane Knill, at their wedding which took place on August 10th, 1848.

In 1852, broken by the effects of prolonged overwork, A.N.W. Pugin became deranged and was confined in the Bethlehem Hospital. During this period his son, Edward Pugin, removed his original drawings from the library at his house, the Grange, Ramsgate, and took them to Birmingham. It seems possible that these drawings were subsequently used as the basis for the design of various pieces of jewellery some of which may not even have been made until after Pugin's death.

Plate 18. Brooch enamelled gold set with five diamonds. Marked A.P. in Gothic letters. Possibly made by John Hardman and Company, Birmingham, between 1852 and 1962. Compares closely to the jewellery exhibited by this firm in the International Exhibition in 1862. Courtesy of Howard Vaughan.

Margaret Flower in her book Victorian Jewellery, illustrates a bracelet which is very similar in design to the marriage jewellery, but it is marked on the tongue of the clasp A.P., in Gothic letters, though the mark usually used was A.W.P. The inscription on this bracelet is dated 1859, but this unfortunately proves nothing. Though the cruciform brooch decorated with fleur de lys and tudor roses in enamel, which is also marked with a Gothic A.P. like the bracelet, on plate 18 is very Puginesque in design, the five diamonds strike a rather unusual note, and one cannot help being struck by its similarity to the jewellery exhibited by Hardman's at the International 'Exhibition in 1862, (see Art Journal Illustrated Catalogue, 1862, p.223).

The fashion for Renaissance, mediaeval and Gothic jewellery was responsible for a great increase in the use of enamel. When Pugin's jewellery and the exquisite 'Renaissance' jewels by Francois Desirée Froment-Meurice were exhibited in 1851 it was seen to be a technique entirely suited to the decoration of these antiquarian designs and was widely adopted by copyists, the jewellers Robert Phillips and Carlo Giuliano, particularly the latter, excelling in this type of design. Pugin's influence on the design of Gothic-style jewellery was long-lasting, particularly in the somewhat retarded world of ecclesiastical design.

Two design for morses — clasps for ecclesiastical vestments —  by Ninian Comper. Left: Plate 21. For the Bishop Elect of Blomfontein. Private collection. Right: Plate 22. For Norwich Cathedral. 1901. Courtesy of the R.I.B.A.

The drawing from the office of the architect Sir Ninian Comper, of a Morse for the Bishop-elect of Blomfontein (see above) was done in 1899 and the drawing of a Morse for Norwich Cathedral (see above) in 1901. The. ecclesiastical work of Pugin's more immediate successor, William Burges, lacks the originality that is shown in his secular designs, of which the most striking are undoubtedly those made for his patron — who was Lord Bute (Plates 19a, b & 20; see immediately below).

Plate 19a. Part of a design for a Gothic-style brooch by William Burges, dated 3 April 1872, intended for the marriage of the Marquess of Bute (John Patrick Crichton-Stuart) and Miss Gwendolen Mary Anne Howard; her initials G.M.A.H. on the lowest shield, become G.M.A.B. for Bute on the shield in the centre of the brooch. The marriage took place on 16th April 1872 but the brooch was not completed until a year later. Courtesy of the Marquess of Bute.

Plate 19b. Design for a tiara for Lady Bute by William Burges, from a sketchbook dated April/May 1874. This tiara has not been traced but there is some indication that work on it was at least started. Courtesy of the R.I.B.A.

The brooch, for which there is a rough design in the small sketchbook dated 1871 in the collection of drawings at the R.I.B.A. and a more detailed drawing in the collection of the Marquess of Bute dated '3rd April 1872' (Plate 19a), was delivered to Lady Bute in 1873. In a letter now in the possession of the Marquess of Bute written to her sister from Cardiff Castle in September of that year Lady Bute writes: 'He (Burges) gave me a most beautiful brooch the other day. I have drawn it as well as I can but my best is bad. It is really quite beautiful.' The drawing in the letter is clearly of this brooch, which had been intended for the marriage of Lord and Lady Bute, which took place on 16th April 1872, but was not completed in time. The body of the brooch is in the form of a Gothic 'G' and the shields are decorated with the initials J.P.C.S., for John Patrick

Plate 20a. Brooch in the shape of a gothic 'G' in enamelled gold set with gems and pearls designed by William Burges. 1871/2. Given by Burges to Lady Bute in September 1873. It appears from A.N.W. Pugin's correspondence with Hardman that this is how he had intended the pearls 'on his Gothic jewellery (see Plate 17) to be set. Private collection.

Plate 20b. Locket, altered to make a brooch, in Gothic style ordered from Mackay, Cunningham and Company, Crown Goldsmiths Queen, 62 Prince's Street, Edinburgh in February 1872. Diamonds, rubies and enamelled gold. In the back is an oval frame covered with glass designed to contain hair, a miniature or a photograph. Given to the bridesmaids at the marriage of Lord and Lady Bute. Private collection.

Crichton-Stuart, and G.M.A.H., for Gwendolen Mary Anne Howard, which appears as G.M.A.B. (for Bute) on the back of the shield at the centre of the brooch. There is a note of the date and the inscription AMABILIS UT RACHEL SAPIENS UT REBEKAH FIDELIS UT SARAH at the bottom of the large drawing in the Bute collection. The design for a tiara for Lady Bute (Plate 19b) is in a small sketchbook dated April-May 1874 (R.I.B.A. collection) and a coronet for Lord Bute in a sketchbook dated September 1873-January 1874 (also R.I.B.A.).

The coronet for Lord Bute and the tiara do not appear to exist any longer, if they were ever completed, but it seems from the following letter, now in the possession of the Marquess of Bute that the tiara (or 'coronet' as Burges calls it) probably was made:

'15 Buckingham Street, Strand. Nov. 28. 1873. . . About my lady's coronet would you send me a strip of paper to show me how long it ought to be and whether she would like it circular. Eliptical or all hinged. I think you decided about it hinged but you did not tell me the length or rather the circumference.'

Burges's other secular jewellery designs are less obviously mediaeval in inspiration and there seems to be no trace of any completed pieces, but there is some evidence of their having been carried out in the notes on the sheets of drawings where names (possibly of patrons) and numbers are jotted down beside one or two of the designs. He designed a chain of office for the Exeter Corporation which was illustrated in the Building News, September 25th, 1885, referred to in the Abstract of his diaries for the year 1874, which incorporates the Gothic elements which he had used in the jewellery for Lord Bute.

Plate 23a. Designs for medieval style brooches. Rome. 1860-65. Courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

Gothic elements continue to appear in jewellery right up to the turn of the century, with designs like the ring by Henry Wilson in the shape of the facade of a church (made for W.R. Lethaby) and the modified version of the same thing from the book of tracings of Liberty jewellery designs now in the Victoria and Albert Museum library and the design for a ring by Charles Ricketts (Plates 70a & b). The 'Mediaeval' brooches on the sheet of designs dating from c. 1860-1865 (Plates 23a & b) are clearly meant to be executed in enamel, and even these rather perfunctory and uninspired designs owe a debt to Pugin's Gothic vocabulary.

Plate 23b. Designs for medieval style brooches. Rome. 1860-65. Courtesy of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

25 February 2015