Life and training of embroiderers, £8.99
Height: 9.400 cm
Gift of Professor and Mrs John Hull Grundy
M&ME Hull Grundy Catalogue 705
Room 47: Europe 1800-1900
Gold hair ornament or brooch
France, around AD 1860
Flower bouquet with butterfly in coloured gold
The ornament is made from three-coloured gold set with diamonds. It takes the form of a large spray of roses, pansies and forget-me-knots tied with a ribbon.
An appreciation for the sublime and the beauty in nature was fundamental to the Romantic spirit. Awareness of landscape was widespread, as was the close study and collecting of plants and flowers. Flowers, insects and shells were painted on ceramics, and jewellery became an important expression of botanical design in the decorative arts. Flowers and plants were represented accurately, and took on a certain symbolic meaning in the early to mid-nineteenth century, encouraged by contemporary publications.
The symbolic language of flowers was popularized by a number of publications in the nineteenth century. The obvious significance of the forget-me-knot also refers to 'true love', the rosebud indicates 'youth and beauty', while the pansy, a play on the French word pensée (thought) can also mean 'you occupy my thoughts'. As the wearer of this jewellery moved, the butterfly, on its trembler spring, would also move, as if in real motion.
The piece reveals a number of very sophisticated techniques. A variety of colours of gold can be achieved by the addition of certain proportions of different elements in the alloy; copper is added for red or pink gold, silver for green gold, while yellow gold is almost pure, 24 carat, gold. The different surface textures of gold are achieved with a range of special tools. The exceptional quality of this piece can be seen in the pansies, for example: the upper petals are in yellow gold, the lower in green, one of them inlaid with alternate stripes of yellow and green gold, all delicately engraved, with a larger tool used to create the veins. The exquisite butterfly demonstrates surface matting or chasing, engraved veins, the 'eyes' set with diamonds. The underside is also subtly chased and engraved.
Mrs Hull Grundy's collection of naturalistic jewellery is the largest and most important of any collection of its type.
C. Gere and others, The art of the jeweller: a cat, 2 vols. (, 1984)