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Pendant

Artist or maker:
Unknown
Artist or maker:
André, Alfred (b.1839, d.1919)
Date:
c 1600 {bust}
c 1640s {hair}
c 1906 {arms and mount}
Place of production:
Milan?, Italy
Prague?, Czech Republic
Paris, France
Medium:
hessonite garnet, gold, enamel, diamonds and pearls
Type of object:
pendants (jewelry)
Accession number:
862

Commentary

Portraits made of semi-precious stones became fashionable jewellery items in 16th-century Europe. Classical gods and leaders were popular choices, such as this queen, perhaps meant to be Cleopatra. The jewel shows evidence of re-mounting. A rare surviving receipt indicates this was done by the Parisian based goldsmith, restorer and forger, Alfred André (b.1839, d.1919).

The taste for such elaborately set gemstones has been associated with the court of Rudolph II of Prague (1552-1612), although it appears they were made throughout Italy and Spain. Similar examples from Italy, a noted centre of gemstone cutting, are a bust of Cleopatra with a much more elaborate setting (H. Brunner, "Schatzkammer der Residenz Munchen. Katalog", 1970, no. 642, ill.); and a female head in the Museo degli Argenti, Florence (inv. no. 835). Another, perhaps of Cleopatra or Lucretia, has characteristics of Spanish jewellery made around 1600 (A. Somers Cocks, C. Truman, "The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection - Renaissance Jewels etc", 1984, cat. no. 17). Several similar heads have later mounts made elsewhere in Europe.

Stylistic analysis suggests that the Waddesdon piece was first made in Italy and mounted somewhat later in central Europe. At some point it appears to have been worn as a brooch, as there is a hinge on the back. At a much later date, the glass left arm was added and the lower section was re-enamelled in green.

This analysis accords with rare documentary evidence in the form of a receipt from the firm of Seligmann given to Alice de Rothschild, dated 14 September 1906. The receipt notes [in translation] '1 small bust of a woman, probably a queen because she wears a diadem. This bust is of the 16th century guaranteed ancient there are some repairs that I have shown to you. I will send this bust to Monsieur André to repair it according to your orders'. This is an important piece of evidence for Alice's collecting activity - she is not known to have acquired any other Renaissance jewels. It also demonstrates that André worked as a legitimate restorer for the family, knowingly 'improving' original pieces, as well as probably targetting them with fakes. As others have noted, where the line was drawn between his forgery business and his restoration services is now hard to determine.

The jewel appears to have been passed from Alice to her sister, Mathilde, who owned other jewels now at Waddesdon (see acc. no. 861). A cultured and talented woman, Mathilde may have admired its queenly subject matter and wanted it for her own collection. Her brother-in-law, Mayer Carl, also based in Frankfurt, owned a similar head pendant of a moor (sold Sotheby's, London, 12 December 2003, lot 21). Unlike many of their contemporaries, Mathilde and Alice not only bought items that traditionally appealed to women collectors such as jewels, their independent wealth enabled them to collect things as diverse as Old Master paintings and Renaissance guns. It is fortuitous that Mathilde's grandson inherited Waddesdon, and the jewel returned to its original home.

Phillippa Plock, 2015

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
63 x 40 x 8; 80 (with chain); weight 36g.

History

Provenance:
Possibly acquired from Jacques Seligmann & Co., Paris, for 15,000FF on 14 September 1906 by Alice de Rothschild (1847-1922) (receipt AR145); probably given to her sister Baroness Mathilde von Rothschild (b.1832, d.1924); by descent to her daughter Adelheid, Baroness Edmond de Rothschild (b.1853, d.1935); by descent to her 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

Kirsten Piacenti, Renaissance and Baroque Jewellery, Apollo, 105, 1977, 422-427; pp. 423, 424, pl. 2.; setting early 17th century.
Yvonne Hackenbroch; Renaissance Jewellery; London; Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc; 1979; p. 196, fig. 542.; as Milan c. 1560 and setting, Prague, 1580-1590.
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. 7.

Indexed terms

Research keywords
Renaissance Culture
Subjects
Figures/Female