loading

Pendant

Artist or maker:
Unknown
Date:
c 1850-1880
Place of production:
Frankfurt?, Germany
Medium:
gold, enamel, lapis lazuli and freshwater pearl
Type of object:
pendants (jewelry)
Accession number:
864

Commentary

Hat badges or 'enseignes' with Saint George and the Dragon were popular in the Renaissance period and with 19th-century jewellery collectors. At first glance, this appears to be an original piece adapted as a pendant, but on closer inspection it is a 19th-century forgery based on a jewel from Kassel. It could have been made in Frankfurt, a notorious place for fraudulent jewel manufacture.

In the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Kassel, there are eight jewelled buttons and a medallion of Saint George slaying the dragon that are said to have been worn on the hat of Ludwig IV of Hessen-Marburg (1537-1604). George's battle appealed to people's religious convictions at a time of Protestant and Catholic opposition. The figures on the Waddesdon pendant are a close copy of those on Ludwig's medallion, but differences, particularly the horse's front legs, indicate it was not made in the same mould as argued elsewhere (see Hackenbroch, 1979). The rest of the jewel has been made to look old - with traditional methods of attaching the figures evident on the reverse. But, as several experts have noted, the quality reveals its 19th-century date.

Lapis lazuli, which provides the deep blue background to the figures, was used by French goldsmiths in the mid 16th-century as a base for 'enseignes'. Several examples indicate that 19th-century forgers found a ready market for imitations of this type. The Art Institute of Chicago has a similar pendant with a lapis panel that has little sign of age (acc. no. 1992.293, see Charles Truman, ‘Nineteenth-Century Renaissance-Revival Jewelry’ in "Renaissance Jewelry in the Alsdorf Collection. Museum Studies, Art Institute of Chicago", 25 (2000), 82-91, pp. 83-4, no. 44). This jewel once belonged to the dealer and forger Frédéric Spitzer (1815-1890), who worked with Reinhold Vasters (1827-1909) to create several jewels with this form (see Miriam Krautwurst, "Ein niederrheinischer Goldschmied des 19. Jahrhunderts in der Tradition alter Meister. Sein Zeichnungkonvolut im Victoria & Albert Museum, London", unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Trier, 2003, pp. 193-207).

However, the quality of the Waddesdon piece indicates that it was not Vasters who was reponsible for making it. On comparing the Waddesdon pendant with the original piece in Kassel, it is clear that it is a relatively cheaply produced version (ill. in "Idol und Ideal: das Bild des Menschen im Schmuck der Renaissance" (Pforzheim, 1997), cat. no. 61). The frame of the Waddesdon pendant repeats the basic shapes, but substitutes gold ovals for the jewels in the Kassel example. A simpler, striped pattern has also replaced the more complex gold scrolls on a black enamel background found in the original. The frames Vasters designed tended to be much more elaborate, suggesting another craftsman at work here. That said, it is evident that the horse is more distinctly modelled on the Waddesdon pendant than the original. This is an an example of a 19th-century artist 'improving' an earlier model, as was the case with some restorer-copyists such as Salomon Weininger (1822–1879) of Vienna.

It may be that the dealer or goldsmith responsible for this piece was connected to Frankfurt, the closest centre of jewellery production to Kassel. A dealer in Frankfurt was renowned for targetting Russian and English visitors to the thermal spas of the Rhine area with faked Renaissance jewels made by unsuspecting Augsburg goldsmiths (see P. Eudel, "Le truquage", (Paris, 1884), p. 86). A jewel from the Löwenstein collection in Frankfurt was used as a source for another forged jewel (see Charles Truman, 'Jewelry and Precious Objects', "Decorative Arts in the Robert Lehman Collection", (Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, 2013), cat. no. 40). A similar St George figure, perhaps also a fake, featured on a much more elaborate mount in the collection of Mayer Carl von Rothschild in Frankfurt (1820-1886) (see F. Luthmer, "Der Schatz des Freiherrn Karl von Rotschild" (Frankfurt, 1883-1885), vol. 2, pl. 34).

However it came into existence, the jewel made its way into the collection of Betty de Rothschild at some point before her death in 1886. Betty was celebrated for her collection of Renaissance jewels displayed in the vitrines at her house on rue Lafitte, Paris. Together with her husband James, she used collecting as a sociable activity - inviting experts, artists and interested guests to admire treasures. They also threw lavish costumed balls, noted for their informality. Betty dressed as a medieval lady at one ball, but it is not known whether she donned such pieces as this pendant to complete her costume.

Phillippa Plock, 2015

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
55 x 47 x 7; 85 (with chain); weight 22g.
Marks:
[Mark of Betty de Rothschild]
Owner's mark
[recorded in object file, pre 1934 - mark of Betty de Rothschild, no longer extant]

History

Provenance:
Acquired by Baroness Betty de Rothschild (b.1805, d.1886); 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

Kirsten Piacenti, Renaissance and Baroque Jewellery, Apollo, 105, 1977, 422-427; p. 425.; 16th century figures on 19th century mount.
Yvonne Hackenbroch; Renaissance Jewellery; London; Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc; 1979; p. 166, fig. 450.; South Germany, c. 1580.

Indexed terms