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Pendant

Attributed to:
André, Alfred (b.1839, d.1919)
Date:
c 1870-c 1880 {top of figures, frame, enamelling}
c 1550-c 1600 {base of figures}
Place of production:
Paris?, France
Medium:
gold, enamel, pearl, freshwater pearl, ruby and diamond
Type of object:
pendants (jewelry)
Accession number:
866.1

Commentary

New photography of the Smoking Room jewels, commissioned to celebrate the re-opening of the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum in June 2015, has revealed that this is a composite piece, most probably assembled by the forger-goldsmith and designer of the Waddesdon Smoking Room, Alfred André (1839-1919). A fragment of a 16th-century hat badge or 'enseigne' has been re-mounted in a openwork design inspired by the Renaissance jeweller, Daniel Mignot (active 1593–1616).

Zoom into the accompanying photographs, and it is possible to see that there is a marked difference in the quality of the top and bottom of the Saint George figure. A new rider and top of his horse, much cruder in style, has been added to the lower part of the horse and dragon. On the reverse, there is a distinct join at the top of the horse's thigh on the right. Often, it is very difficult to tell if 19th-century goldsmiths have used original fragments or created wholly new pieces in the Renaissance style. Piacenti (1979) suspected the former was the case because the curved base of the dragon indicated the figures originally came from a hat badge.

Traditionally, hat badges were devotional objects made of cheap lead or pewter. They indicated the owner had been on a pilgrimage, or prayed to a particular saint. During the Renaissance, noblemen started to wear ornate versions made of precious materials. Saint George was a popular figure with both Catholics and Protestants as a sign of religious conviction; it could also mark the owner's membership of a particular Order or group. Many examples survive.

The openwork back that now supports the figures is very similar to a mould used by Alfred André (1839-1919). This design was used by André to make another Saint George pendant (see R. Distelberger and others, "Western Decorative Arts Part I" (Washington, 1993), p. 285; and Kugel, 2000). On this example, a frame made of two C scrolls with three drop pearls was placed behind the figures rather than underneath as with the Waddesdon jewel. However, the reverse of the Waddesdon jewel and the André mould is remarkably similar. It seems highly likely that the design was re-used by André for the Waddesdon piece to mount the original fragment in a new frame. Openwork designs were a favourite of 19th-century forgers, probably because they looked old and impressive but actually used a relatively small amount of gold. Readily available prints of Mignot's designs also contributed to this fashion (Charles Truman, personal communication, August 2014).

Mixing old and new things together was a standard practice for goldsmiths who made a living from creating fake 16th-century jewels. Well documented forgers such as Salomon Weininger (1822–1879) often used this technique (see P. Rainer, ‘ “ Es ist immer dieselbe Melange”: Der Antiqitätenhändler Salomon Weininger und das Wiener Kunstfälscherwesen im Zeitalter des Historismus’ "Jahrbuch des Kunsthistorischen Museums Wien", 10 (2008), p. 45). A goldsmith who collaborated with André through the intermediary of Frédéric Spitzer (1815-1890), Reinhold Vasters (1827-1909), also worked in this way as his designs for the Charity pendant in the Victoria & Albert Museum show (acc. no. M.534-1910, see C. Truman, 'Reinhold Vasters – the last of the goldsmiths?', "The Connoisseur", 200, (March, 1979), p. 158; see also M. T. Wypyski, 'The Neptune Pendant: Renaissance Jewel or Nineteenth-Century Invention?', "The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin" 67 (2009), p. 39).

Ferdinand de Rothschild probably became aware of the jewel's true nature in the 1890s. It may be the jewel mentioned in Ferdinand's unpublished "Reminiscences", which he acquired from Spitzer shortly after gaining his inheritance. Ferdinand wrote that the 'large enamelled jewel of the sixteenth century', was not as he thought: 'some years later [when] I had acquired more knowledge of sixteenth century art I discovered that the jewel was "made up", and that I had been handsomely "done" – but by that time M. Spitzer was wearing his decorations in heaven, while I was left to reflect on the guilefulness of human nature, a wiser though sadder man'.

Ferdinand may have originally acquired this jewel along with a chain (acc. no. 866.2) with knowledge of something like the collar and Saint George medallion of the Order of the Garter made for the Earl of Northampton in 1629 (see H. Tait, "Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum. 1: The Jewels" (London, 1986), p. 195). Contrary to Piacenti’s opinion, the jewel was definitely not the piece inherited from his father, Anselm - described as Saint George in Anselm's catalogue - which is certainly the pendant with a rider now in the British Museum, part of Ferdinand's Waddesdon Bequest (inv. no. WB.161.)

Ferdinand chose to display the jewel along with a chain that André also appears to have made, perhaps also incorporating old fragments (acc. no. 866.2). They were shown together in a wooden frame carved in a 'Renaissance' style, that André may have also provided (acc. nos 3813.1-2; D. Thornton, personal communication, September 2014). André was instrumental in designing Ferdinand's new 'Renaissance' Museum based in the Smoking Room at Waddesdon (see D. Thornton, 'From Waddesdon to the British Museum', "Journal of the History of Collections" (2001), p. 197). Another piece in the Waddesdon Smoking Room collection indicates that the family became used to using André to re-mount old fragments for display (see acc. no. 862).

Alongside any knowledge gained from André, the fact that Ferdinand was able to include a better quality 'Saint George' pendant in the 50 or so pieces of Renaissance jewellery he left to the British Museum in his will of 1897 is no doubt why this jewel remained at Waddesdon (inv. no. WB.172). The inventory taken after Ferdinand's death on 17 December 1898 and completed by 2 February 1899, shows that a sizeable collection of objects were still displayed in the Smoking Room, probably moved from elsewhere in the Manor after the more important pieces left for the British Museum.

Two wooden frames displayed 3 chains, 3 pendants and a framed intaglio. The Saint George jewel was one of these pendants (see also acc. nos 865, 868). Given André's involvement in the design of the Smoking Room, it is likely that these frames and the jewels inside were always intended for this space and were either always there, or were planned as substitute pieces ready to be moved there quickly once the Bequest had left.

Phillippa Plock, 2015

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
65 x 45 x 10; weight 18g.

History

Provenance:
Acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898), possibly from Frédéric Spitzer (b.1815, d.1890) around 1875; inherited by his sister Alice de Rothschild (b.1847, d.1922); inherited by her great-nephew 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 1963.
Collection:
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1963

Bibliography

Bibliography

Kirsten Piacenti, Renaissance and Baroque Jewellery, Apollo, 105, 1977, 422-427; pp. 422-23; with incorrect provenance.
Alexis Kugel; Joyaux Renaissance: une splendeur retrouvée; Paris; J. Kugel (Paris); 2000; pl. III, d; possible mould.
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. 1

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