Italian Renaissance masterpieces, £19.99
Length: 19.600 cm
Width: 2.000 cm (square plaques)
Gift of Professor and Mrs John Hull Grundy
M&ME Hull Grundy Catalogue 959
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Gold bracelet made by Giacinto Melillo
Naples, Italy, around AD 1870
A technical tour de force
Giacinto Melillo (1846-1915) was an outstanding pupil of the Castellani firm, and took over Alessandro Castellani's workshop in Naples in 1865.
This bracelet comprises nine plaques with complex, Etruscan-style motifs. The decoration is carried out in principally in wirework, often known as 'filigree', and granulation, which is the use of applied 'grains' arranged in patterns against a gold background. In its attempt to imitate the ancient techniques of granulation, the Castellani firm had developed a method of using silver solder to attach the grains, which was then gilded to match the colour of the gold. To the naked eye it is indistinguishable from ancient granulation, but when magnified the solder blurs the join between grain and background. The Etruscans did not use solder; they relied on the different melting points of the grain and the background. The grain being smaller, melted sooner and attached itself to the background. The join is absolutely clean.
This bracelet is based on Etruscan 'bracelets' in the renowned Campana collection of ancient jewellery (now in the Musée du Louvre, Paris) which the Castellani family knew well. The Etruscan 'bracelets' were in fact assembled in the nineteenth century from genuine Etruscan 'baule' (literally 'bag' or 'purse') ear rings, dating from around 700-500 BC, that had been flattened to form plaques and hinged together. There are no genuine Etruscan bracelets of this form.
Mellilo's bracelet is unusually large for a bracelet and must have been difficult to wear.
C. Gere and others, The art of the jeweller: a cat, 2 vols. (, 1984)
G. Munn, Castellani and Giuliano: reviv (London, Trefoil Books, 1984)