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Phoenix Jewel

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Phoenix Jewel
  • Description

    Gold pendant, bust of Queen Elizabeth I cut out in silhouette; on the reverse, in relief, the device of a Phoenix in flames under the royal monogram, crown and heavenly rays; enclosed within an enamelled wreath of red and white Tudor roses wwith green leaves and intertwined stalks.

  • Date

    • 1570-1580 (circa)
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 49 millimetres (without loop)
    • Height: 60 millimetres (with loop)
    • Width: 44 millimetres
    • Depth: 4 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Content

        royal cipher
  • Curator's comments

    Text from Hans Sloane Manuscript Catalogue: 'Queen Elizabeths picture in Gold enamell'd round from a medall of her adornd. Ditior in toto non alter circulus orbe is round the medall but cutt into enameld ornament in thin gold put{?}.'

    See H. Tait, Seven Thousand Years of Jewellery (London, BMP, 1986), p.177, no.294, pl.24.This Jewel is an unique survival and is individually tooled, engraved and chased. It is not cut from a known medal and the front and back do not correspond exactly with the Phoenix Badge in Coins and Medals. [see 1927,0404.3] The medals bear a Latin inscription on the queen's virginity which is missing here. She is shown in one portrait wearing a phoenix pendant but there is no firm documentary evidence for the use of this emblem.

    For the imagery of the Phoenix in relation to Elizabeth I see Bate and Rassmussen, Shakespeare Complete Works, RSC, 2007, p. 2396 for Robert Chester and Shakespeare himself, and p. 2343 for the mysterious poem now known as "The Phoenix and the Turtle".

    The Sloane description is confusing but the reference to the enamelled border makes it clear that this is the object referred to despite the inscription which is on the Badge but not on this object. Sloane or his cataloguer clearly related the two pieces.

    Phoenix portrait 1572 by Hilliard on loan to NPG shows Elizabeth I wearing a phoenix above a ruby as emblematic of leadership and intelligence, see Scarisbrick 1995 fig.9.


  • Bibliography

    • Tait 1976 294 bibliographic details
    • Tait 1986a 360 bibliographic details
    • Bate & Thornton 2012 p. 141, fig. 21; p. 290 bibliographic details
    • Scarisbrick 1995 pp.62-3, fig.52 (reference to Phoenix portrait in NPG) bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G46/dc6/s2/p1/no18

  • Exhibition history

    2015 16 Mar-19 Jul, France, Paris, Musée du Luxembourg, Les Vrais Tudors.
    2012 19 Jul-25 Nov, London, BM Shakespeare: Staging the World
    2011 22 Oct- 2012 5 Feb, Perth, Western Australian Museum, 'Extraordinary Stories'

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: The Phoenix Jewel


COMPASS Title: The Phoenix Jewel

Image description



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Object reference number: MCN16160

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