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Pendant

Artist or maker:
Unknown
Artist or maker:
André, Alfred (b.1839, d.1919)
previously attributed to Benvenuto Cellini (Italian, b.1500, d.1571)
previously attributed to circle of Hans Collaert (Belgian or Flemish, b.c 1530?, d.1580)
Date:
c 1830
c 1886 {restoration and enamelling}
Place of production:
Paris, France
Medium:
gold, enamel, diamonds and rubies
Type of object:
pendants (jewelry)
Accession number:
863

Commentary

When Betty de Rothschild (1805-1886) acquired this piece as one of the highlights of her celebrated collection of Renaissance jewellery, it was believed to be a masterpiece of the Florentine jeweller Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571). Now understood to be an early 19th-century forgery, this piece demonstrates some of the difficulties avid collectors had in acquiring genuine Renaissance treasures as well as the skill and ingenuity of 19th-century goldsmiths.

Betty was no doubt reassured by this piece's provenance, part of the celebrated collection of Louis Fidel Debruge-Duménil. She displayed it alongside other Renaissance jewels in glass cases in the hôtel on rue Laffitte, Paris, where she and her husband entertained high society with lavish parties, sometimes in historical fancy dress. Debruge-Duménil was inspired by his friends' scholarly interest in medieval and Renaissance art and had quickly acquired a very large collection in the last eight years of his life after he retired from business as a property baron. Little is known about where he bought all his pieces, but it appears he was targeted with fakes. His son-in-law wrote that this piece was damaged when acquired, perhaps to suggest age.

Since the 1970s, scholars have become increasingly aware of the level of forgery in 'Renaissance' jewels. Recent examination of this jewel by Charles Truman indicates that it is indeed 19th-century in date. The rubies and diamonds are in modern, uniform settings, and there is little wear to the metal and enamel. The figures are also somewhat confusing: it is unclear whether they are meant to represent Architecture or Astronomy. They could be original fragments, re-mounted in a different context, but they may also be 19th-century in date.

Because of its provenance and publication history – it was illustrated several times in the mid-19th century - we know that it could not have been made by later goldsmiths, such as Reinhold Vasters (1827-1909) or Alfred André (1839-1919), more well-known for fraudulent activity. Related jewels, such as the St Thomas pendant in the Wallace Collection, suggest that an earlier workshop based somewhere near Paris was responsible for several Renaissance-style architectural jewels (see Hugh Tait, 'The "Incredulity of St Thomas" jewel (pre-1837) and related fakes prior to Vasters', "Jewellery studies", 7 (1996), pp. 49-56).

Many Parisian goldsmiths responded to changes in fashion during the 1820s and made jewels in the Renaissance style, some with very convincing results (see Shirley Bury, 'The Renaissance in the 19th Century', in “Princely Magnificence, Court Jewels of the Renaissance, 1500-1630”, ed. A. Somers Cocks, exh. cat., Victoria and Albert Museum (Debrett’s Peerage Ltd), London, 1980, pp. 41-45, (pp. 42-43)). It may be that one of these goldsmiths was responsible for the Waddesdon pendant.

From earlier publications and what appears to be a mould taken of the reverse of the jewel, we also know that it was altered by Alfred André towards the end of the 19th century, probably due to structural weaknesses. André was a highly respected restorer of gold and enamel work, as well as a collaborator of the notorious dealer and faker Frédéric Spitzer (1815-1890). The small flower garland was added at the back centre, and the red arcade was added to strengthen the upper section behind the top diamond. André must have taken the mould to plan or record his work.

We know that other moulds André took appear to be for the purposes of forging very similar Renaissance architectural jewels, related to the engravings of the Antwerp goldsmith Hans Collaert, published in 1581-2 (see Rudolf Distelberger and others; “Western Decorative Arts Part I” (Washington, D.C.; National Gallery of Art; 1993), p. 286). It is intriguing to speculate whether André knew that the Waddesdon jewel was not 16th-century as he worked to repair it, and whether he may have known, or even trained, with its early 19th-century maker.

Phillippa Plock, 2015

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
82 x 58 x 12; weight 69g.
Marks:
[C. 2]
Owner's mark
[recorded in object file, pre 1934 - mark of Betty de Rothschild, no longer extant]

History

Provenance:
Acquired by Louis Fidel Debruge-Duménil (b.1778, d.1838) between 1830 and 1838; sold, Debruge-Duménil sale, Paris 1849, no. 992; acquired by Baron Achille Seillière (b.1813, d.1873), possibly via Prince Peter Soltykoff sale, Paris, 1861; acquired by Baroness Betty de Rothschild (b.1805, d.1886) by 1866; by descent to her son Baron Edmond de Rothschild (b.1845, d.1934); by descent to his son James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1963; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1990.
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1990

Bibliography

Bibliography

Charles Jules Labarte; Description des objets d'art qui composent la collection Debruge-Duménil, précédée d'une introduction historique, par Jules Labarte; Paris; Didron; 1847; p. 658, n. 992.; as attributed to Cellini.
Édouard Lièvre; Les collections célèbres d'oeuvres d'art; 2 vols; Paris; Goupil; 1866-1879; vol. 1, pl. 23, n. 3.; as in collection of Betty de Rothschild, attributed to Cellini, as Architecture, commentary by Paul Mantz.
Charles Jules Labarte; Histoire des arts industriels an moyen âge et à l'époque de la Renaissance, 2nd ed.; 3 vols; Paris; A. Morel et Cie.; 1872-1875; vol. 2, pp. 118, 445 n. 3, pl. XL.; as attributed to Cellini, possibly Astronomy.
Eugène Plon; Benvenuto Cellini : orfèvre, médailleur, sculpteur : recherches sur son œuvre et sur les pièces qui lui sont attribuées; Paris; E. Plon et Cie.; 1883; pp. 233-234, pl. XXII, n. 1.; as German or Flemish, possibly Hans Collaert.
Kirsten Piacenti, Renaissance and Baroque Jewellery, Apollo, 105, 1977, 422-427; pp. 422, 424-25, fig. 2.; c. 1590, as possibly Astronomy.
Yvonne Hackenbroch; Renaissance Jewellery; London; Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc; 1979; p. 235, fig. 631.; c. 1580-1590, as Geometry and Architecture.
Alexis Kugel; Joyaux Renaissance: une splendeur retrouvée; Paris; J. Kugel (Paris); 2000; pl. XI, c.; illustrates mould taken from back of almost identical jewel by André.
Phillippa Plock, Rothschilds, rubies and rogues. The 'Renaissance' jewels of Waddesdon Manor, Journal of the History of Collections, 2016, doi: 10.1093/jhc/fhv043; fig. 11

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