he two decades following the Great Exhibition were a period of considerable material prosperity in this country; proof of this can still be seen all over England today: it will surely be many years before the nineteenth century expansion which altered the entire appearance of the urban scene is covered by the tide of modern development. In this climate of commercial euphoria the power and prosperity of the middle-classes continued to grow, and with this increase in fortune came the demand for such conspicuous luxuries as had hitherto been denied to any but the very rich, particularly the lavish and showy jewellery which proclaimed a man's success and prosperity in a most satisfactory way. The Great Exhibition had advertised the possibilities, now it was up to members of the public to create the demand which they did with great enthusiasm. The magnificent French jewellery shown at the Exhibition had been extravagantly admired and the superior taste and technique of Parisian jewellers was the envy and the object of emulation of any English jewellery firm engaged in a serious commercial operation. The diamond jewellery worn at the French Court during the Second Empire much of it in the revived eighteenth century style made fashionable by the Empress Eugenie, became the pattern for grand jewellery throughout Europe until after the turn of the century, and the large and colourful semi-precious jewellery of the prosperous bourgeoisie was copied for the less affluent customers who now made an important contribution to the prosperity of the trade. During the sixties and seventies jewellery succumbed to the prevalent tendency to Elephantisis which attacked the decorative arts and this period produced some of the most lavish — and some of the most tasteless — Victorian jewellery.
Happily this type of jewellery [75/76] was not the sole product of High-Victorian self confidence. Though the great conflict which was to develop during the second half of the century between the entrenched commercial interests on the one hand and the Aesthetic faction on the other had hardly begun, and views of the Aesthetes had as yet made no impression on the general public, much of the jewellery of the period is very delicate and beautifully made. Even the sternest critics of modern jewellery design were inclined to admire the revivalist Gothic and archaeological styles as an acceptable alternative to diamonds (too worldly!) or mass-produced middle class novelties which were considered utterly debased and vulgar. By this date (1865-70) the rigid historical approach used by the earlier imitators of mediaeval and classical jewellery gradually gave way to the more eclectic style which was used by designers like William Burges (Plates 19 & 20) Eugene Fontenay (Plate 48) whose bijoux étrusques are pure fantasy, Robert Phillips, John Brogden and the Italians, Carlo Giuliano and Carlo Doria. The designers of the seventies produced much original jewellery, unhampered by the technical problems which had been solved by their predecessors, the pioneers of Gothic, like Froment-Meurice and A.N.W. Pugin, and of the archeological style like the Neapolitans who copied jewellery from the excavations at the beginning of the century, and Fortunato Castellani who produced the formula for imitating the delicate granulation of the Etruscans.
Two examples of Catellani archeological virtuosity: Left: Bacchus pendant with Granulation in the Etruscan Style. Right: Renaissance revival ring. Reproduced courtesy of Susan Weber Soros, Director of the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, which holds copyright on this image, and the owners of the original object. [Not in print edition]
By the middle of the century the choice of styles had already grown bewilderingly large. The enormous official catalogue of the 1851 Exhibition lists Gothic, Renaissance, Mediaeval or 'Holbein' jewels which attempted to recreate the work of the Middle Ages and the Tudors; the Egyptian, Assyrian, Neo-Grec and Etruscan, mid-nineteenth century neo-classicism, reproducing with varied success the goldsmiths' work of Greece and Rome. Botanical jewellery, attempting the impossible, imitated flowers and leaves and even drops of water as closely as possible, tremblant diamo-nd bouquets, tortoiseshell branches entwined with ivy, delicately carved coral and ivory flowers on gold stems, and ruby, sapphire and emerald bouquets with enamelled leaves. Curiously enough, this profusion of choice did not produce a range of jewellery designs with marked differences of interpretation or with recognisable national characteristics which would make it possible [76/77] to distinguish easily between French or Italian or English jewellery. The material underwent a process of stylization with results that can be seen in the pattern-book designs of the period, a series of amazingly uniform shapes with only superficial decoration in the Egyptian, Greek or rococo style. This is not true of the jewellery of the great Victorian designers, but their work is inevitably overshadowed by the sheer quantity of fashionable jewellery and trinkets which were produced to satisfy the insatiable requirements of the Victorian middle class.
At this time both Froment-Meurice and Fortunate Pio Castellani were making jewellery in the Renaissance manner, which, like Pugin's Gothic style, revived the art of enamelling, neglected, though not entirely abandoned, since the end of the eighteenth century. This tradition was carried on, and brought to an extraordinary degree of technical perfection, by the Italian jeweller Carlo Giuliano, who was sponsored by Robert Phillips and had established himself in London at 115 Piccadilly. The Renaissance jewels by Castellani are among the finest things which he made (see Plate 60b), but his name is always associated with his better known Archaeological and 'Etruscan' jewellery, which was his special interest.
The Victorians themselves adopted a hopelessly schizophrenic attitude to these artistic revivals, claiming on the one hand that all the problems of vacuity and feebleness that characterise the less interesting jewellery of this type stem from the fact that it is copied from ancient models, while maintaining on the other hand that the copyists like the Castellanis and Froment-Meurice (admired particularly for his 'Renaissance' jewellery) were producing the only tolerable jewellery amongst a mass of trash. On the whole Matthew Digby-Wyatt, an influential critic, is unequivocally on the side of the revivalists, though it is noticeable that virtually none of the contemporary writers on this subject can be relied upon to maintain one point of view consistently. In Metal-work and its Artistic Design, published in 1852, he uses for one of the magnificient colour plates which illustrate this book examples of Renaissance jewellery shown at the 1851 Exhibition by Froment-Meurice. In the chapter on 'Goldwork, and the Principles of its Treatment', Digby-Wyatt sets out his rules for modern jewellery design, many of which were subsequently [77/78] followed by a number of English designers:
We can imagine few lessons which would prove of greater advantage to the jeweller of the present day than the careful study of the exquisite specimens of ancient art, which are preserved in the Etruscan Museums of Pope Gregory XVI and the Cavaliere Campana of Rome. In these collections he would find work adapted for personal decoration, of the most exquisite design, and executed by the simplest pro- cesses. In some of the golden garlands, which the ladies of Etruria were wont to bind around their brows, he would at once perceive how skilfully an idea borrowed direct from nature — that of entwining together a simple group of leaves and flowers — may be carried out, without in any degree infringing upon the conventionalities proper to the material employed. He would see collars, upon portions of which the most exquisite patterns are defined by filagree, disposed in graceful curves and scrolls, and soldered to the sheets of gold forming the substance of the work. The edges he would find bound with twisted wire, to give strength to the whole, and enriched with small and beautiful pendants, hanging from them like a precious fringe.
If it were possible to place by the side of such specimens some of those heavy bracelets, simulating uncomfortable snakes or ponderous fetters, and earrings decorated with unmeaning shell-work, which abound in the shops of the modern jeweller, it would be impossible to avoid the conclusion that if the mechanical facilities of production are perfectly comprehended in the present day, an almost total ignorance of the just principles of special design is no less generally prevalent. ... It is most remarkable that while sums of almost any amount, determined only by the caprice or fashion of the day, are constantly given for diamonds and other precious stones, the nature of their setting should receive so small an amount of attention . . . The world-wide celebrity of the Italian school of goldsmiths is due to the taste with which Cellini, Caradosso, and other masters, enriched the jewels of the Cinque-cento age with the most exquisite lavori di minuteria. Unfortunately, too few relics of that school exist, and it is rather by tradition than by actual evidence that we can fully appreciate its beauties. The study of such works as time has spared, and of such drawings or designs as are still in existence, has unquestionably stimulated [78/80] the French jewellers of the present day in the production of many very beautiful modifications of the mediaeval and Cinque-cento styles. MM. Froment-Meurice, Rudolphi, and Morel, have in this way produced many works which deserve the highest commendation; and it is gratifying to observe in the specimens contributed to the Great Exhibition by Messrs. Garrard, and Hunt and Roskell, that their attention has been directed to similar sources of design. A careful examination of the elaborate paintings of our ancestors, by Sir Antonio More, Zucchero, Holbein, and even Vandyke, will afford many illustrations of the beauty of design of much ancient jewellery of this country. It is too much to be feared that, in the production of modern portrait-painters, our descendants may seek in vain for any equivalent to the beautiful goldsmith's work of former days.
Digby-Wyatt was exactly right, but in a different sense from the point he is trying to make, in believing that we should 'seek in vain' for evidence of the beauty and originality of Victorian jewellery design in the portraits of his female contemporaries. A brief survey of Victorian portrait painting reveals how little jewellery was worn during the day, a brooch and a pair of simple earrings or a string of beads would be all that most women would wear. To search the portrait galleries for the work of the well-known nineteenth century jewellery designers yields dis- appointingly little information. There is a certain amount of jewellery to be found in the portraits of the period, more in French pictures than in English, and the state portraits of the Royal and Imperial ladies show them wearing magnificent jewels (Plate 27; immediately below).
Plate 27. The Empress Eugenie print by H. Pouquet after the portrait by Winterhalter, painted in 1854, called L'imperatrice Eugenie en Toilette de Gala. Courtesy of the British Museum. The tiara of diamonds and pearls which the Empress is wearing dates from about 1820. It was sold in 1887 by the Ministere des Finances. The cross from the top of the Imperial Crown on the table, was sold at the same time. It was among the uncatalogued items.
I suspect that this type of semi-official jewellery was not what Digby-Wyatt had in mind. Possibly the fact that intricate jewellery is not easy to paint has something to do with it; although it is very striking when it is well done, as by Winterhalter or Ingres. Unlike Rossetti, whose later pictures are full of curious oriental or antique jewellery, Winterhalter (Plates 5 & 27) and Ingres were painting jewellery current at the height of fashion in considerable detail.
In his two portraits of Mme. Moitessier, Ingres painted the jewels in such detail that the form and workmanship can be seen clearly (Plates 28 & 29). Ingres took great interest in every detail of his pictures and was at some pains to achieve the exact effect that he required by selecting the jewellery that was to [81/82] be worn with great care. In the portrait of Mme. Moitessier seated in front of a mirror, which was completed in 1856 after he had been working on it for nearly thirteen years, not only was the pose changed during this long period, but the dress and jewellery were altered to conform with the changes in fashion which took place between the mid-forties and the mid-fifties. Ingres was equally concerned with these details in the other portrait painted in 1851 (Plate 29; below), and the jewellery which she wore in the early sittings was changed as he felt that it was not entirely suitable.
Left: Plate 28. Detail from the portrait of Mme. Moitesster, by J. A. D. Ingres. Completed in 1856. Courtesy of the National Gallery, London. Right: Plate 29. ) Mme. Moitessier by J.A.D. Ingres. 1851. Oil on canvas, 147 x 100 cm (57 7/8 x 39 3/8 in.) The jewellery for this portrait was selected by Ingres (see the letter above). He calls the necklace which she is wearing a 'sautoir', but it is not really long enough. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Samuel H. Kress Collection 1946.7.18
A pencil study for this portrait, (reproduced in the catalogue of the Ingres exhibition held at the Petit Palais in Paris from October 1967—January 1968, no.247), shows her in a much shorter necklace than the long pearl one in the finished portrait, the brooch has been changed (the first one was more elaborate), and a bracelet and a ring have been added. Ingres wrote to Mme. Moitessier requesting her to make these changes as follows:
J'abandonne . . . le bijou sur le poitrine, d'un style trop vieux, que je vous prie de remplacer par un camee en or. Je ne renonce pas cependant a une longue et simple chatelaine, laquelle je pourrais terminer par la cassolette de la premiere. Ayez done, Madame, la bonte, lundi, d'apporter la soute de vos bijoux, bracelets et le sautoir de perles sur le cou.1
These then are the fashionable jewels for a woman in Mme. Moitessier's position in the fifties. Her taste inclined rather towards bijoux bourgeois, jewels of a massive and splendid appearance, but generally Set with stones like garnets, amethysts, turquoises and pearls, rather than diamonds, emeralds or rubies. It is interesting to compare Mme. Moitessier's bracelet (Plate 29) with that worn by the Baronne James de Rothschild in the portrait painted by Ingres in 1848, which is a piece of jewellery of entirely different quality. The type of jewellery worn by Mme. Moitessier was very popular in the mid-nineteenth century, many of the pieces are chiefly remarkable for their great size and they have a flamboyant quality which appealed to the instinct for display that [82/84] was a highly developed characteristic of the newly wealthy.
By the time of the second International exhibition in London in 1862 it was felt that much had been done to improve the standard of design and execution of English jewellery, and to approach the standard of excellence set by the French, (who, ironically enough, were great admirers of English workmanship) but it was still an accepted convention that French jewellery represented the peak of fashion, and the standing of Paris as the fashionable capital of the Western world was confirmed by the glamour of the social life at the Court of Napoleon III. In 1853, at the time of the Emperor's marriage to Eugenie de Montijo, the French acquired in their new Empress a dazzling leader of fashion. The Empress Eugenie was in every way suited to this role, being tall and beautiful, which is confirmed even by photographs of her. The truth about the real looks of legendary beauties often remained hidden before the age of photography — Winterhalter, for instance, is revealed as a considerable flatterer — but in her case the truth confirms the legend, she was also endowed with great natural good taste as her- preferences in jewellery reveal.
At the time of his marriage Napoleon began to recover or replace the dispersed Crown jewels of France. Some of the historic stones which had been stolen from the Royal Furniture Depository in 1791 were already back in the collection of the Diamantes de la Couronne, but others, such as the great blue diamond of Louis XIV (the 'Hope'), and the 'Sancy', were gone beyond recall. The large diamond 'reliquary' brooch made for the Empress Eugenie by Bapst in 1855, which is now in the Louvre, contains the seventeenth and eighteenth 'Mazarin' diamonds, and some of the other 'Mazarin' diamonds were used in a diamond sautoir made for the Empress at the same time. Most of the work of re-designing and resetting the Crown Jewels was done by Bapst, who had succeeded Nitot as the Crown Jeweller; among other things he made the 'Greek' diadem (in 1867) and the 'Russian' diadem (in 1863) which was similar to the diadem worn by Queen Victoria for the opening of the Great Exhibition, both of which were shown with the other diamond jewellery from the Crown Jewels in the Exposition in Paris in 1867, a magnificent display of the most sumptuous jewellery design of the period, and were subsequently disposed of at the sale of the 'Diamants, perles et [84/85] pierreries provenant de la collection dite des joyaux de la couronne', ordered by the Ministère des Finances. Although Bapst was responsible for the major part of the work connected with the Crown Jewels, some of the jewels made for the marriage of the Empress were by Lemmonier, who had made the jewels for the Queen of Spain which were shown at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 (illustrated in Tallis's History and Description of the Crystal Palace). In the description of the Imperial marriage which appeared in La Sylphide, February 10th, 1853, further jewels by Lemmonier are mentioned:
Lemmonier fit encore plusicrs parures, veritable fleurs d'mtelhgencc ct de genie. L'une de ces parures etait en perles fines et en rubis, et se composait de la petite couronne fermee qu'on place derriere la tête, d'un bracelet et d'un collier a plaques.
There is a further description of her dress and her jewels in the note accompanying a drawing by E.T. Parris which appeared in the same series of Historical Costume drawings as the one of Queen Victoria in her coronation robes (p. 19), in the Connoisseur, 1902:
'The bridal dress of the Empress consisted of a rich white satin corsage, close fitting to the figure, trimmed round the throat and down the front with a broad facing of lace, terminating with a deep flounce at the hips. The front of this corsage or jaquette was fastened with four jewelled clasps, and below with two lines of pearls, above which was worn a ceinture, or girdle of diamonds. The sleeves, fitting to the arms, were trimmed above the elbow to the wrist with falls of rich lace, looped in front with three jewels. Diamond and pearl bracelets were worn over the gloves. The skirt of white satin was covered with four deep flouces of lace, continuing the trimming of the jacket. The head was crowned with a diamond tiara, from which descended a rich veil. Large diamond earrings completed the costume.
The fact that she wore pearls at her wedding was noted with surprise, as this is held to be very unlucky, and the Empress was rather superstitious; it is doubly odd therefore that she should choose to ignore this particular superstition which is Spanish in origin. Many people must have felt that the Empress should avoid courting disaster at all costs. Given her superstitious temperament, her great interest in her unfortunate predecessor, Marie Antoinette, is unexpected; much of her jewellery was designed in the eighteenth century style in memory of the Queen, and she was responsible for prolonging, and re-establishing in fashion, a tradition of design which had never completely died out. Massim's diamond wild rose brooch made in 1863, is in the direct tradition of the eighteenth century flower sprays; this design which was so popular that it was copied for at least twenty years would be perfectly acceptable today, its influence extended even to the Royal Palace in Persia, where brooches that are close copies of these French flower sprays were given to girls who were married from the Palace. One of these is in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, and it is only distinguishable from its French prototype by the curious shape of the leaves which betrays its Oriental origin.
The Empress bought jewellery from exhibitions (such as the lilac spray by Rouvenat, which she bought in 1867, see p.217) and jewellery made for her was also shown. The peacock brooch by [86/88] Baugrand (Plate 32b) was made for the Exposition in 1867 where he also showed a bracelet of sapphires and diamonds made for the Empress and the brooch ('style Louis XVI") in the drawing by him (Plate 32a) was made for her in the same year.
Left: Plate 32a. Design for a brooch by Gustave Baugrand 1866, in the 'style Louis XVI' was made for the 'Exposition' in 1867. Courtesy of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Right: Plate 32b. Peacock brooch by Gustave Baugrand 1867. Courtesy of Mssrs. Christie, Manson & Woods.
Queen Victoria visited the Emperor and Empress at the time of the earlier Paris Exhibition in August 1855, following a visit which was her habit the Queen, kept a minute record of all the events of the day in her journal, and also of the dresses and jewellery that both she and the Empress wore. She was very struck with the perfection of Eugenie's taste in dress, and delighted that she [88/89] herself had dared to acquire a crinoline, for this was the period when the crinoline reached its most extravagant dimensions, and anything else would have looked sadly unfashionable. In spite of the endless trouble she had taken with her toilettes, Marshall Canrobert considered that she presented an exceedingly odd appearance with her massive bonnet and her enormous reticule embroidered with a fat poodle in gold. Whatever the short-comings of her dress, surely the Koh-i-noor, which she wore in a diadem at a ball in the Hotel de Ville on August 23rd, must have had an impressive effect.
The Queen noted that the Empress wore some of the newly-set French Crown Jewels when the Emperor was presented with the Garter on August 18th, and she was later shown the Imperial Crowns which the Emperor explained that he had had made with few diamonds so that the rest could be made into parures for the Empress. As for the Garter, he told the Queen that he was wearing — '. . . les decorations le l'ordre de la Jarretiere, qui appartiennent aux diamants de la Couronne, et qui ont ete faites pour Charles X'. For a ball on August 21st, by a curious coincidence, the Queen, the Empress and Princesse Matrplde all wore white dresses with emeralds and diamonds, which must have looked very beautiful.
Brooch with a Falcon's Talon. c. 1860-1870. Falcon talon, jeweled mount. 2 1/2 in. (6.35 cm). Scotland Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland (no. 57.2122). Reproduced courtesy of the Walters Art Museum. [Not in print edition]
The Empress was fascinated by the tartan dresses and the kilts worn by the English Royal family and she introduced this fashion to Paris by wearing a tartan dress herself; inevitably tartan jewellery followed and flexible gold bracelets enamelled in tartan were made. A combination of interest in Balmoral and Walter Scott and, of course, Mary Queen of Scots, ensured that Scottish things had a good reception in England, but it is curious to find in Paris jewels like the 'petit trophée ecossais', made by the jeweller Dutreih, a cravat pin in the shape of a tartan bonnet in enamelled gold surmounting a horn and a sporran, also of enamel, executed with the minutest realism. Fontenay says of Dutreih, in his book Les Bijoux Anciens et Modernes, that he was the jeweller whose work most closely approached that of the jewellers of the Renaissance in execution, but he seems to have lacked the genius for design of his predecessors. It must be added that Fontenay had been apprenticed to Dutreih.
The social scene in Paris during the Second Empire is [89/90] justifiably notorious. The entertainments staged for Queen Victoria's visit were probably a good deal less extravagant than the spectacular ball which was given by the Due and Duchesse de la Pagerie at the Hotel d'Albe in 1860, described by Frederic Loilee in Gilded Beauties of the Second Empire, which contains details of the social life of the time and descriptions of all the personalities, all of a more or less libellous nature:
An army of artisans and artists worked day and night for a month. Merante, of the Opera, was responsible for the principal quadrilles, such as one representing the elements in which only ladies took part. Miraculous toilettes were designed for the occasion. After two postponements the great event occured. An avalanche of silks and laces, of muslins and brocades, filled the magnificent ball-room specially built in the courtyard of the palace. After the event the guests discussed the incandescent jewels of Mademoiselle Erazzu, who represented a goddess of fire, and whom they had seen bathed in the light of her resplendent rubies. They spoke of diaphanous costumes that seemed lo be made of a white vapour fringed with azure, and studded with adamantine stars, which were worn by Madame de Metternich and three other ladies, whose quadrille represented an allegory of the air. [There follows a footnote] The Countesses Walewska, de la Béydoyère, and de Grétry, and Princesse Chtwerlinska, representing water, were clad as water-sprites, with bodices made of scales in mother-of-pearl and silver, trimmed with seaweed, short skirts of water-green, and sashes made of pearls and marine plants. Their headdress consisted oi' a shell made of gold and mother-of-pearl. ... It was a gathering unsurpassed in its wonderful display of Oriental and barbarian luxury, tempered by modern refinement. Thousands of precious stones reflected a thousand lights in their dazzling rays, and shone forth from the lace trimmings of gauze skirts, whose generous transparency afforded a good view of shapely limbs; diamonds and rubies studded bodices of white satin embroidered with foliage of gold filigree and trimmed with swansdown; while sapphires and emeralds darted their ardent searching rays upon a velvet corsage that imprisoned a stately bust. Oriental mosaics vied with turquoise gems in the adornment of another dress, while huge emeralds fastened ostrich feathers upon a flame-coloured [90/91] mantle with a deep gold border. Its wearer s headdress was a double diadem, consisting of a gold rim from each curve of which hung a pear-shaped diamond, and a super-posed Greek diadem studded with gems. She had a necklace composed of stones as large as hazel-nuts, and a second one of emeralds, from which was suspended a diamond the size of a pigeon's egg. Her slippers were embroidered with precious stones, and in her hand she carried a gold sceptre, at the extremity of which shone the magic carbuncle of the good fairy.'
There is some conflict of opinion as to who was the hostess at this famous ball; in her memoirs, Princesse Metternich claims that the ball was given by the Empress Eugenie, and as she took part in the quadrille representing the four elements, it seems likely that she knew who the hostess was. She describes the ball in My Years in Paris published in 1922:
The Empress had a beautiful ball-room built out into the garden, and it was there she gave this really lovely fete ... I took part in the quadrille representing the Four Elements, and was one oi the group representing Air. There were four women to every group. Those representing land wore nothing but emeralds and diamonds; those representing Fire, nothing but rubies and diamonds; those representing Water nothing but pearls and diamonds, and those representing Air nothing but turquoises and diamonds. We all lent one another jewels. Not possessing any turquoises of my own, I wore those belonging to Princess Lise Troubetzkoi; they were very beautiful, and the quadrille was an immense success.'
The impression given by this account is not so misleading as it might appear, some of the dresses seem to have been extremely scanty; the dress worn by Princesse Mathilde caused so much comment that Lord Malmesbury, who was in England, had heard about it barely a week later:
At the fancy ball at the Hotel d'Albe, the Princess Mathilde was, I hear, dressed as an Indian, and had had her skin dyed brown. Her dress was of the scantiest, very decolletee, her arms bare up to the shoulders, with a narrow band by way of sleeve, fastened with a brooch. The body was slit under the arm to the waist, showing the skin. The drapery behind was transparent, which she was probably not aware of, as she had not dyed her skin in that particular place, and the effect was awful. [91/92]
Princesse Mathilde naturally denied that this description was accurate and claimed that she was dressed as a 'fellah' in a brown wool dress.
The jewels made for these entertainments were clearly quite remarkable, they occupy a large proportion of any description of the balls given during the Second Empire, and they must have been a valuable source of business for the Parisian jewellers; for instance, Bapst made a pair of diamond horns for Princesse Metternich when she attended a ball as a demon. The majority of these jewels would presumably have been broken up, being too extraordinary to wear again — there would hardly to another suitable occasion for little diamond horns — and it is sometimes possible to see where this has been done; a stone can be reset in such a way that a minute drill-hole would show where it had formerly been suspended as a pendant.
Plate 30. Necklace and, Earrings. Garnets, pearls and gold English, c. 1840. Courtesy of the London Museum.
There was a fashion at this time for enlivening the evenings with tableaux vivants for which elaborate costumes and jewels were specially made. Some photographs survive of the Comtesse Castiglione in various roles, and a photograph in the collection of Robert de Montesquoiu shows her 'en Reine d'Etrurie'. De Montesquoiu was a great admirer of the Comtesse, possessing many relics of her, includir pieces of furniture, papers, and several portraits.
Loilée makes very little distinction between the monde and the demi-monde, reporting on the activities of both with a fine impartiality. Indeed, the clothes, jewels and entertainments of the demi-mondaines were as lavish as any to be found in the Court circles; the pearls of Cora Pearl or La Pai'va were reputed to be worth enormous sums. La Païva is described in the Journal des Concourt of 31st May 1867, 'Elle a une robe de mousseline qu'elle lit valoir 37 francs, et 500.000 francs de perles au cou et aux eras'. The jewel casket of La Barucci
was as high as the mantelpiece, and divided into twenty drawers. Each one, upholstered in silk, contained a special kind of stone; there was a compartment for diamonds, and others for emeralds, pearls, rubies, sapphires, ancient and modern jewels, and gems of all descriptions.'
Social life at the Court in England was very different; the Powder Ball in 1845 and the Restoration Ball in 1851 called for [92/93] much less daring costumes, and to judge from contemporary llustrations, the jewels worn were mainly pearls. Some earrings inade of false pearls which are copied from those worn by Henrietta Maria in a portrait by Van Dyck and a necklace in seventeenth century style were found by E. Bruce Clarke, which he used as an illustration in an article, “Of Jewels, an Appreciation of Imitations,” written for the Art Journal in 1900, and it is quite possible that these were made for the Restoration Ball. Even these [93/94] entertainments were abandoned on the death of the Prince Consort and the Queen retired into deep mourning from which she hardly emerged during the rest of her life. Jet was the only jewellery allowed at Court for several years after the death of the Prince, which gave an added impetus to the jet industry in Whitby which was already expanding enormously, year by year.
Left: Plate 33. Empress Eugenie. Print, c. 1855. The necklace worn by the Empress in this portrait is probably the three-row necklace of 'pearls of astonishing size' later given to La Paiva by her husband, Count Henckel van Donnersmarck.
Right: Plate 34. Princess Mathilde. Lithograph by Siroux after a portrait by Giraud, 1853. One-time prospective bride of Napoleon III, Princess Mathilde was the daughter of Jerome Bonaparte, deposed King of Westphalia. She is wearing the seven-string necklace of 384 pearls given by Napoleon I to her mother. This necklace was sold for 445,000 frs. in 1904. Both courtesy of the British Museum.
Nearly ten years after the death of Prince Albert came the fall of the Second Empire, and the Empress Eugenie was obliged to flee from the Tuileries taking with her the minimum of baggage. She had been warned of the gravit of the situation and had already entrusted her jewels to the 'rincesse Mettcrnich, who records in her memoirs her horror at receiving these priceless treasures into her safe-keeping:
There had been no time to take an inventory Some of the cases were missing, and all these diamonds and pearls and countless other precious stones were merely wrapped up in newspaper . . . The maid went off to fetch some tissue-paper, and then we set to work to wrap up these superb tiaras, ropes of pearls, bracelets, brooches, earrings, diamond chains, rows of solitaires, aigrettes, and precious stones of every kind, stowing them away in an ordinary cardboard box.
One of the jewels which was saved in this way was a tiara which had belonged to the Empress Josephine, which is now in New York. The Empress was obliged to sell some jewellery in 1871, and Jean Phillipe Worth records that Henckel von Donnersmarck bought a necklace of three rows of diamonds which he gave to La Paiva as a wedding present, which she was delighted to wear as a revenge for all the social slights that she had suffered during the Empress's reign. A version of the story is recorded in the Journal des Goncourt, 1871, November 21st:'Puis Houssaye nous apprend que la Paiva s'est mariee avec le comte Henkel, avec le diademe de l'mperatrice sur la tete.'
Even among the flamboyant women of her circle La Paiva stood out as one of the most remarkable; she would be remembered fur the sumptuous Hotel de la Paiva, in the avenue des Champs Elysées, with its staircase of onyx, its bathroom of onyx and agate with taps encrusted with turquoises, even if her jewels had been less fabulous; it was she who started the fashion for earrings called bouchons de carafe which were made of diamonds the size of decanter stoppers, and I suppose it was followed by those who [94/96] could afford it. It almost seems as if the jewels of the courtesans outshine those of the Imperial family, but the sale of the Diamantes de la Couronne in 1887, when the French Crown Jewels were dispersed yet again, and the sale of the jewels which belonged to Princesse Mathilde in 1904, revealed the enormous extent of their possessions. The catalogue of Princesse Mathilde's jewels listed seventy brooches, fifty-nine bracelets, twenty-five necklaces and twenty pairs of earrings; among these were two [96/97] pearl necklaces, one composed of three strings of enormous pearls, which came from the Reine Sophie of Holland (133 pearls) which made 855,000 francs, and another of seven strings given by Napoleon I to the Queen of Westphalia (384 pearls) which made 445,000 francs, and is presumably the one which she is wearing in the portrait by Giraud, painted in 1853 (pi. 34); there was also a necklace of thirty-three black pearls as well as a number of diadems, jewelled combs and belt buckles.
Plate 31. Design for a brooch by Alexis Falize. c. 1855. Courtesy of the Cooper Hewitt Museum. Typical of the taste of the period, this brooch is in a style very similar to the jewellery worn by Mme. Moitessier.
During this period jewellery increased in size until it became very large and heavy; it is the jewellery of the seventies, which until a few years ago was regarded as typically Victorian, which earned such a bad reputation for Victorian jewellery design. The drawing by Alexis Falize (Plate 31) which is a design for a brooch done c.1855, is an indication of the way this trend was developing in the late fifties, and brooches and pendants, particularly lockets, became larger with each succeeding year until they reached such an unwieldy size that a reaction set in. In the last two decades of the century brooches, or rather the lace pins which were then very fashionable, and pendants, became so small as to be nearly invisible. The enormous size attained by the crinoline at the height of the fashion for this cumbersome garment has something to do with the large size of jewellery during this period, but the same tendency can be seen in furniture, and this was the time when the immense, overdecorated china vases which helped to bring Victorian ceramics into disrepute were made. So the crinoline was only partly responsible for this trend, and jewellery continued to be very large even after the crinoline was abandoned; a noticeable decrease in size is not really apparent until the eighties. The protests from the followers of William Morris were beginning to be heard, but not much heeded as yet.
Left: Plate 36. Pendant in rubies, diamonds, gold, silver, enamel and cloisonne enamel with a large baroque pearl. French c. 1860-70. Courtesy of Howard Vaughan. This pendant dates from some time soon after the revival of cloisonne enamelling for jewellery in the sixties. Right: Plate 16. It is interesting to compare the figures with the Pradier figures on the bracelet by Froment-Meurice and the figures on the 'Renaissance' chatelaine by Hippolyte Teteger (Plate 65).
Although some of the jewellery of this period is unlikely ever to be admired however much the enthusiasm for Victoriana gathers momentum, there was at this time, as always in the nineteenth century, some beautiful work being done. In about 1860 Alexis Falize re-introduced cloisonne enamelling into jewellery with great success (Plate 36), and jade taken from the Summer Palace in Pekin was used by Eugene Fontenay for jewels in the shape of grasshoppers and beetles, and plaques decorated with birds and flowers in a technique resembling that used in Mughaljade ornaments from India. [97/99]
In the sixties and seventies the Morris-Pre-Raphaelite influence on jewellery was still minimal, affecting, at this stage, only the small band of dedicated Aesthetes later to be so influential, for whom the lavish diamond jewellery of the period represented the height of ostentatious and vulgar bad taste. But even in the aesthetic desert of English commercial jewellery of the late nineteenth century, designs were being produced which even the sternest critics could admire. In the chapter on jewellery in The Art of Beauty by Mrs Haweis, 1878, the following pieces are singled out:
Under the direction of Messrs. Phillips, the most perfect models are sought for the ornaments they furnish. Museums and picture galleries are ransacked for devices of necklaces, earrings and pendants. I there observed an elegant cross copied from a picture by Quentin Matsys in the National Gallery; [see Plate 37] a bracelet of enamel and gold, whose delicate traceries, with Tudor roses and fleur de Us, are adapted from a line frieze beneath the tomb of Henry VII in Westminister Abbey; bonbon boxes of Louis Seize shapes, grafted on an Indian pattern, in which much of the Indian feeling for colour is retained. In general, however, I found their form superior to their colour — the English eye lacks the Oriental instinct. I saw facsimiles of exquisite Etruscan and Greek collars in gold, every detail being carefully studied, and reproduced after the manner of the ancients.
Plate 37. Detail from a copy of a painting by Quentzn Matsys This picture is listed in the National Gallery inventory covering the years 1868-78 as being by Matsys, one of only two pictures attributed to him. This must, therefore, be the cross which Mrs Haweis says Robert Phillips copied. This same cross was also copied by John Brogden, and probably by other jewellers of this period. Pictures were the source of much historical revival jewellery since few pieces of Gothic domestic jewellery existed to serve as models for the nineteenth century craftsman.
Mrs Haweis was a tireless advocate of 'artistic', as opposed to opulent, dress and jewellery; throughout The Art of Beauty she advises simplicity and originality, and she frequently wore a necklace which she had made herself from special seeds which were dried and then threaded together which she claimed were often mistaken for pearls! Her letters to her mother are full of accounts of her social life, which contain detailed descriptions of her own, and her friends', jewellery. In one she admires, predictably enough, an ancient Celtic necklace belonging to Lady Ashburton, but even she was not proof against the impression which a mass of diamond jewellery could make, and she gives an ecstatic account of the jewels, 'magnificent diamonds', worn by Lady Mar for a dinner party at the Haweis's house, 16 Welbeck Street, in 1872. So much for the often-voiced artistic distaste for diamonds; in the face of really magnificent diamond jewellery [99/100] even the most, dedicated Aesthete can only gasp in astonishment. All the more surprising, therefore, that the reaction against the supremacy of the diamond, which was the result of the exploitation of the diamond mines in South Africa in the late sixties should have been so widespread.
Further on in the passage on Modern Jewellery, Mrs Haweis, like Matthew Digby-Wyatt writing in Metal-work and its Artistic Design nearly thirty years earlier, directs the reader's attention to the-work of Holbein:
'In the old days, the ten celebrated artists — the Holbeins, the Durers, the Clouets, the Cellinis — did not disdain to design ornaments, plates, vases, dagger-hilts, and many other things; but now, when our chief artists do disdain so to employ themselves, the jewellers act in the best and wisest spirit when they reconstruct after the ancient models.
During the second half of the nineteenth century it is true that there is a considerable quantity of jewellery designed in the 'Holbein' style or 'after Cellini', but it is curious that the design of so much of this jewellery should be so indifferent since a large collection of designs for jewellery by Holbein the Younger have survived, and were at that time available for study in the drawings collection in the British Museum, as have some designs reputed to be by Cellini which were extensively illustrated in nineteenth century works on antique jewellery, both of which would have made perfect models for the designers of jewellery in this antiquarian style. There is no doubt that the craftsmen of the period would have been able to execute these designs, their high degree of technical brilliance is never in question, particularly in this field of mediaeval and Renaissance jewellery. Individual designs of this style by the master-jewellers of the period like Froment-Meurice, whose Renaissance-style jewels most closely approach the Cellini jewels in design, Castellani and Giuliano are exceedingly fine, but 'mediaeval' jewellery suffered from uninspired re-interpretation even more than the Archeological jewellery of the same period, the designs often plumbing unaccountable depths of banality.
Towards the end of the seventies the mediaeval mania, which had been re-vitalised by the work of the Pre-Raphaelites and William Morris, was somewhat eclipsed by the new passion for the [100/102] art of the East, and the decorative arts of Japan and India strongly influenced the design of jewellery. Generally Indian jewellery was admired by those who felt that modern jewellery design had been ruined by the extensive mechanisation which had taken place in all the processes of jewellery production; the roughness of execution and the asymetrical appearance of the Indian work had a special appeal for the advocates of handcraftsmanship, but Indian jewellery later became popular in the fashionable world beyond the artistic and aesthetic circle who had first admired it when Queen Victoria became Empress of India in 1876.
Looking ahead to the new jewelery — two works by René Lalique, both courtesy of the Walters Art Museum, i: Left: La Source Pendant and Necklace. c. 1902. Ivory, enamels, opals, gold. Right: Orchid Comb. ivory, gold, "plique-à-jour" enamel, horn, diamonds.
The influence of the ideas ofWilliam Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites on dress and jewellery made the acceptance of the experimental work of the designers in the Arts and Crafts movement and the Art Nouveau style an actual possibility, which, when one considers the fashionable jewellery of the seventies, seems little short of a miracle.
Design for brooch by Antoine Mellerio c. 1850-60 - Metropolitan Museum, New York).
26 February 2015