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Pendant

Artist or maker:
Unknown
Date:
c 1650
Place of production:
France?
Medium:
gold, enamel, zircon and pearl
Type of object:
pendants (jewelry)
Accession number:
3017

Commentary

Alluding to miniature jewelled prayer books, this unusual pendant appears to be related to the fashion for flower decoration perfected by enamellers working in mid-17th century France and Germany. One of two pendants now at Waddesdon that were seized by the Nazis from Paris in 1940, research conducted in the Rothschild Archive at Windmill Hill by Jill Geber demonstrates that these two pendants only came to England in 1955 and joined Waddesdon's Smoking Room collection in 1963 (see also acc. no. 3041).

At first glance, this pendant appears to relate to the fashion for small devotional texts worn as jewellery that stretches back to the Middle Ages. Unusually for a book pendant however, this example does not open. It may have been designed to allude to the wearer's religiosity without the expense of including a tiny book or a portrait inside. The format does though have the advantage of providing a relatively large surface area for decoration, as several 17th-century Spanish goldsmiths realised (see P. E. Muller, "Jewels in Spain 1500-1800" (New York, 1972), pp. 70-1).

The distinctive tulips painted in red and white enamel have led several experts to suggest a Dutch origin for the jewel. However, similar flowers were used to decorate a watchcase made by Henry (b. 1614) and Jean Toutin I (1578-1644) in Blois, France, and on a box made by a Nuremberg enameller around 1650 (British Museum, inv. nos 1978,1002.543; 1978,1002.230). The flowers are also very reminiscent of an enamelled French watchcase based on prints by Nicholas Cochin published in Paris in 1645 (see C. Vincent, 'Some Seventeenth-Century French Painted Enamel Watchcases', "Metropolitan Museum Journal", 37 (2002), 97-98). Although not of the quality of these examples, the similar decoration may indicate that the Waddesdon pendant was also made in France.

No longer extant, a Nazi number noted in the object file for this jewel allowed the uncovering of this pendant's more recent history. Along with every other item from Edmond de Rothschild's collection, it has a 'P' number. This allowed its identification in Edmond's inventory made after his death in 1934, as amongst the 'Objets de Vitrine' from the boudoir of his house at 41 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Paris. The letters ' C.L.' written after this entry in the list indicates that at this time the jewel was deposited in the Parisian bank, Crédit Lyonnais. Following the occupation of France by the Nazis in June 1940, this bank readily co-operated with the seizure of Jewish property including bank accounts and safety deposit boxes (see M. J. Bazyler, "Holocaust Justice" (New York, 2003), pp. 173-176). This jewel was one of many art objects taken to Germany and given an identification.

We also know the jewel went to Germany because it also appears in a list in the Windmill Hill Archive of 'Objets retrouvés' (returned objects) dated November 1946, one year after the end of World War II. As part of the repatriation of objects looted by the Nazis, the jewel was taken back to the Paris bank: on this list there is also a manuscript note 'Crédit Lyonnais'. It remained in the bank along with four chests full of various objects from Edmond's collection. It next appears on a list made on 18 April 1955 entitled: 'Liste des objets (Objets de vitrine) destinés a Mr James de Rothschild à Londres provenant de la Succession du Baron Edmond de Rothschild'. The shipment appears to have happened in July 1955 to James's house at 23 St James's Place, London.

After James's death in 1957, the pendant was one of many objects offered in lieu of Estate Duty and given to the National Trust by the Treasury Solicitor in 1963. It was moved from the strong room at Eythrope, the property near Waddesdon adapted by James and his wife to use as a private residence, to the Smoking Room at Waddesdon. Following James's bequest of certain parts of the Manor to the National Trust in 1957, the Bachelors' Wing and Smoking Room were opened to the public for one day a week in the early 1960s. The original collections were gradually supplemented by James's widow, Dorothy, with items from Alice de Rothschild’s collection at Eythrope, as well as suitable items inherited by her husband, such as this small pendant.

Phillippa Plock, 2015

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
40 x 23 x 13; 45 (with suspension ring); weight 24g.
Marks:
[R2531]
Owner's mark
[Recorded in object file, Nazi inventory number]

History

Provenance:
Acquired by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (b.1845, d.1934); by descent to his son James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); seized by the Nazis in 1940; returned to Paris in 1946; shipped from Paris to London in 1955; 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; p. 425.; as probably French, 17th century.

Indexed terms