- Museum number
Necklace with five circular pendants in 'Pompeiian' style with polychrome scenes of nymphs and cupids. The gold mounts and chain-loops are set with diamonds. On a gold chain of woven circular section are threaded gold tube-links alternating with eighteen triangular links with drop-shaped pendants with flattened backs and applied wirework and hanging from the links around the back are thirteen cast and chased gold butterflies surmounted by flower-heads. Warranty mark, maker's mark and in the original labelled case.
- Production date
- 1870 (circa)
Diameter: 2.95 centimetres (central pendant)
- Curator's comments
- Text from catalogue of Hull Grundy Gift (Gere et al 1984) no. 983:
Cased between 1867 and 1873, the period during which Boucheron occupied two arcades in the Palais Royal. In 1873 he acquired two further arcades, and in 1878 he won three grandes prix at the Exposition Universelle, two facts that would certainly have been recorded on the box label.
Fontenay's mark on this necklace can be compared with the more legible mark on the ear-rings with jade amphorae exhibited by Fontenay in Paris in 1867 and now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (see the exhibition catalogue, 'L'Art en France sous le Second Empire', Paris, 1979. no.95).
The attribution to Fontenay as designer and maker is confirmed by the pendant in an exactly similar style and technique which is illustrated in Vever 1908-12 (III, p. 342), and by photographs of similar necklaces included in an album of photographs of jewellery by Fontenay in the Bibliotheque des Arts Décoratifs, Bijoux par Fontenay (1882). According to Vever, Fontenay introduced into his jewellery 'de charmants emaux mats et doux comme une fresque pompeienne' (1908-12, II, p. 176). His technique of matt fired decoration seems to be in the tradition of Wedgwood's encaustic painting on ceramics (c. 1770), an invention by which coloured pigments are fired onto the surface but without vitrification or any glassy appearance. Consequently, this type of matt decoration cannot be termed enamelling in the more usual sense of the word. In these five circular pendants Fontenay has introduced onto the surface, above the matt fired colours, many flecks of gold, which are almost invisible to the naked eye; this addition may have required a second firing. These particular 'Pompeiian' scenes were executed by a pupil of Thomas Couture, the genre- and portrait-painter Eugène Richet, who made his debut at the Salon in 1861. He made a speciality of painting portraits in enamel.
While the beaded borders of the pendants and the circle of square compartments (but not the use of diamonds) derive loosely from the concentric circles of ornament on Etruscan disc-brooches (see 962), the drop-shaped pendants and butterflies are derived equally loosely from elements in Greek fringe necklaces; this free interpretation is characteristic of the French attitude to the 'archaeological style'.
Eugène Fontenay was one of the most interesting of the French goldsmiths of the nineteenth century, being both highly technically accomplished as well as profoundly knowledgeable in the history of his craft. His interest in antique jewellery was stimulated, as for so many others, by the acquisition of the Campana collection, which came to the Louvre through the agency of the Castellani family in 1861, a characteristic piece of enlightened buying on the part of the Emperor Napoleon III. In deciding to train as a goldsmith and jeweller Fontenay followed in the steps of both his father and grandfather. He was apprenticed in the workshop of Marchand ainé (the elder) at an early age and spent some time with another Parisian jeweller, Dutreih, before setting up on his own account in 1847. His professional career is discussed in some detail by Vever (1908-12, II, pp. 157-80). 'Les bijoux anciens et modernes', Fontenay's book on the history of jewellery, was published in 1887, the year of his death.
This Fontenay necklace is an exceptionally well-preserved tour-de-force, though unfortunately the en suite brooch-pendant is now lost; its design can only be conjectured from the marks in the centre of the case, where it had been specially accommodated. (Judy Rudoe)
See 'The Belle Epoch of French Jewellery 1850 -1910', London 1990, the English translation of the catalogue of the exhibition of.1989: 'Pariser Schmuck vom zweiten Kaiserreich zur Belle Epoque', Munich, Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Cat no 38.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001 12-23 Jun, London, Wartski, Henri Vever: La Bijouterie Francaise au XIXe Siecle
1989 29 Nov-1990 4 Mar, Germany, Munich, Bavarian National Museum, Pariser Schmuck 1850-1910, cat. 38.
- Acquisition date
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: HG.314 (masterlist number)