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Pendant

Artist or maker:
Unknown
Date:
c 1860s
Place of production:
Vienna?, Austria
Medium:
gold, enamel, freshwater pearl, sapphire and ruby
Type of object:
pendants (jewelry)
Accession number:
868

Commentary

Cupid balances rather incongruously on top of a stag in this 19th-century imitation Renaissance pendant, perhaps given as a gift to a young Ferdinand de Rothschild, or even his wife. This was one of three pendants displayed in the Smoking Room after most of its contents left for the British Museum in 1898. Despite its poor quality, it does share affinities with more accomplished 19th-century fakes suggesting it was designed with a conscious fashion in mind, rather than being merely an odd-assemblage.

In Alice de Rothschild's inventory of 1922, this pendant was described as showing Diana and a stag. Although the chubby winged child is clearly meant to be Cupid, the stag and dog are far more suited to the ancient goddess of the Hunt, rather than the god of Love, explaining the compiler's confusion. The theme of love may indicate that it was a gift to a young Ferdinand or his wife, Evelina, who died in childbirth in 1866 just 18 months after their marriage. Ferdinand did acquire many jewels for his wife before her untimely death (see D. Thornton, "A Rothschild Renaissance: The Waddesdon Bequest", 2015, p. 28).

Sentimental value may explain why a jewel of such inferior quality was included in Ferdinand's 'second' Smoking Room display. Ferdinand had developed this room and its collection of Renaissance treasures in the early 1890s. In the terms of his will made in 1897, he left over 50 pieces of choice Renaissance jewellery to the British Museum. 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. These objects were probably moved from elsewhere in the Manor after the more important pieces left for the British Museum. The speed in which they entered the room suggests that a 'second' Smoking Room display must have been planned before December 1898.

The 1898 inventory lists two ornately carved and gilded oval walnut frames that displayed 'cinque cento ornaments' (16th-century jewels): these were 3 chains, 3 pendants and a framed intaglio. The cupid and stag was one of the pendants (see also acc. nos 865, 866.1). It is likely that these display frames were always intended for the Smoking Room, as the figures carved on the frame in 'Renaissance' style are reminiscent of the decor Alfred André (1839-1919) advised for the room (see D. Thornton, 'From Waddesdon to the British Museum', "Journal of the History of Collections" (2001), p. 197).

Perhaps conscious that these jewels were not of sufficient quality, Alice removed the jewels from the Smoking Room and chose to store them, still in their frames, in the Housekeeper's Room at her day pavillion at Eythrope. The frames still survive, although they were only recently identified as those belonging to the jewels, as they contained Limoges enamels when they were given to Waddesdon in 1963 (acc. nos 3813.1-2).

Looking at the reverse of the jewel reveals its poor construction and lack of finish. It is reminiscent of fairly crudely made pieces from Hungary known as 'boglar' (Charles Truman, personal communication, August 2014). The jewel attached to the stag's body is comparable to details found on some jewels associated with Budapest (see H. Tait, "Catalogue of the Waddesdon Bequest in the British Museum. 1: The Jewels" (London, 1986) pp. 100-101). The figures may have also been made by the goldsmith as stock pieces to be included in various types of objects, rather than being 16th-century in date. It could have been sold through a dealer in Vienna.

Several fake Renaissance jewels made by more accomplished goldsmiths such as Reinhold Vasters (1827-1909) and Alfred André (1839-1919) indicate that such bizarre arrangements of figures were not uncommon. Vasters made a jewel with a woman riding a stag holding a column (Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, acc. no. 44.622 , see "Princely magnificence: court jewels of the Renaissance, 1500-1630" (London, 1980), pp. 44, 137-40). André had some connection with a putto on horseback jewel (see R. Distelberger and others, "Western decorative arts. Pt. 1" (Washington, 1993), p. 285). And an unknown artist made a pendant with a young lyre-player riding an elephant (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, acc. no. 1982.60.386, see C. Vincent, "The Jack and Belle Linsky Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art", (New York, 1984), p. 202, cat. no. 123). Other examples exist.

These jewels suggest that 19th-century goldsmiths may have consciously intended to produce compositions that appeared obscure or unusual. Such an aesthetic may have appealed to collectors keen to acquire unique items whose exact significance must have appeared pleasingly lost in history. Whether these singular arrangements were a result of goldsmiths re-assembling available old pieces, or actually making a range of new ones to piece together in intriguing ways, is difficult to determine.

Phillippa Plock, 2015

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
69 x 36 x 13; weight 17g.

History

Provenance:
Acquired by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (b.1839, d.1898); 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; as putto on stag.

Indexed terms