Antoine Beaudouin’s Silver Art Nouveau Pendant: Modesty


Modesty Antoine Beaudouin

The ‘tête de femme’ was a popular motif in France around 1900. These ladies – combined with flowers – often symbolised themes, such as Sleep, Dream, or Desire. This dreamy example is one of the prettiest Art Nouveau girls’ heads. The large silver and ruby pendant is called Modesty and is signed: Beaudouin, Paris (Antoine Beaudouin). The lady in this pendant has downcast eyes and is surrounded by violets (Viola Odorata); the stylized hair framing her face also determines the contours of the pendant. Violets stand for modesty as well as romantic love.

Other versions of the same design are known. For instance, a lovely gold brooch with an enamelled face and diamonds instead of cabochon cut rubies is in the Schmuckmuseum in Pforzheim (inv. no. KV 1404). It bears the maker’s marks of both Antoine Beaudouin (AB around a shield) and Georges Le Saché (LS around a thread). Le Saché was one of the most famous goldsmiths active around 1900, and also worked for Lucien Falize.

That the gold Phorzheim Modesty bears more than one maker’s mark is exceptional and suggests that Le Saché did not execute this brooch alone. Beaudouin not only must have designed Modesty, but also have had a hand in its execution. The silver Modesty pendant is one of Beaudouin’s few fully signed jewels. It has no maker’s mark, so we do not know whether Beaudouin crafted it, or if Le Saché made it for him.

Literature: Martijn Akkerman, ‘De “Modestie” broche, een belangrijk juweel van de Parijse Art Nouveau goudsmid-juwelier Antoine Beaudouin’, in: Antiek, 4, November 1986, pp. 210-215.




Largest Girandoles

Princess Isabella of Parma’s girandole earrings in Meng’s painting below are modest in comparism to these 11 cm. long diamond girandole earrings. They are the largest pair known. The silver earrings are completely set with rose cut diamonds, all perfectly set to the point that they appear to melt into the floral design, Portugal, third quarter of the 18th century.

weight: 65.8 grams
length: 11 cm.

In jewelry, a girandole is a design, mostly earrings, in which three dangling pear-shaped ornaments are suspended from a central motif, often a bow. The girandole was the favourite court jewel in the 17th century and its popularity remained in the 18th century. The original 17th century model comprised one element above a central bows suspending 3 or 5 pear shaped pendants all moving independently creating a dramatic sparkle effect. In the 18th century new versions of the girandole model were created where the central bow experienced several variations. This model, where the central bow was replaced by a bouquet was the favourite in the European courts.


These earrings are from the collection of Américo Barreto, famous Portuguese jewellery collector and dealer in the 20st century. Barreto worked as a consultant of “National Palace of Ajuda” for the crown jewels collection and was widely recognized both nationally and internationally. He had a legendary private collection which was presented at Museum of Ancient Art until his death and that is can be found (partially) on the illustrated book “Five Centuries of Jewelry”.

The earrings were probably sold by Barreto in the 1970s. There is no information regarding the original provenance of these earrings but it is very likely that they have a royal or noble provenance. They are rich and extravagant. Here is another portrait of Queen Maria Luisa of Parma who was also painted by Mengs in 1765.

Queen Maria Luisa of Parma 1765

Queen Maria Luisa of Parma 1765


Large Girandoles

T i m o t h y  H o r n  mirrored blown glass, nickel-plated bronze

A Girandole (French, from the Italian girandola) is an ornamental branched candlestick composed of several lights. Girandoles came into use about the second half of the 17th century, and were made and used in pairs. A girandole has always been a luxurious lighting device, and in the 18th century, the period of great French decoration, the famous carvers designed some beautiful examples from gold, gilded silver or bronze or wood.

In jewelry, a girandole is a design, mostly earrings, in which three dangling pear-shaped ornaments are suspended from a central motif, often a bow. Girandole earrings were very popular in the 17th and 18th century, but even now still are.

Princess Isabella of Parma (daughter of Philip of Spain, Duke of Parma) wears the most magnificent 18th century diamond girandole earrings on this painting, which was done soon after her marriage to Joseph II in 1760, by Anton Raphael Mengs.

Revivals exist of all times, like this english 1790 harlequin girandole gold brooch set with foiled gems; two amethysts, three chrysolites, a topaz and a garnet or these two colored coral and gold Van Cleef & Arpels girandole ear clips from the 1970s.

This lovely pair of silver and paste is brand new.

Sheer Elegance in a Girandole Earring

This is more stylized example; a pair of diamond and platinum girandole earrings set with brilliant and baguette cut diamonds from the 1950s.

diamond and platinum earrings

A pair of 19th century garnet and gold girandole earrings form the South of France.

grenat de Perpignan earrings

A pair of girandole  earrings with five oval shaped coque de perle, a pearl-like stone that is cut from the Indian nautilus shell and is similar to a blister pearl.

Girandole style earrings with five oval shaped coque de perle, a pearl-like stone that is cut from the Indian nautilus shell and is similar to a blister pearl. (via Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Timothy Horn makes the ultimate girandoles, even though you cannot wear them in your ears….. They refer back to their original decorative functions.

T i m o t h y  H o r n  mirrored blown glass, nickel-plated bronze

Horn’s exhibition in the Young Museum in San Francisco showed Sweet Thing (2008), a bronze and nickel tree-like girandole sculpture with large pearls made of mirrored blown glass elements. Except for the fact that it measures 50 x 36 inches, Sweet Thing closely resembles a blown up 18th century girandole drop earring. As you can see, Horn is interested in the intersection between beauty and grotesque, perfection versus vulgarity and his work always has a strong connection to the decorative arts. Grand!

Titania (2009)

T i m o t h y  H o r n  mirrored blown glass, nickel-plated bronze, cast lead crystal

T i m o t h y  H o r n  mirrored blown glass, nickel-plated bronze, cast lead crystal

Titania II (2011)

T i m o t h y  H o r n  mirrored blown glass, nickel-plated bronze

Petit Chou (2009)

T i m o t h y  H o r n  mirrored blown glass, nickel-plated bronze

These huge cast lead crystal, bronze, nickel plate Girandoles l and ll (Rain of Hot Stones) (1998) are so lovely even though Horn tried to change materials and reduce associated preciousness; Horn plays with the beautiful.

Bring jewels to life: a competition about Ilona Ptasnik’s jewellery collection in Schoonhoven

Ilona Ptasnik

Last year the Dutch Silver Museum in Schoonhoven received a generous gift from the estate of Ilona Ptasnik. A large collection of antique jewellery was given by this lady who had been unknown to the Museum before her gift. Ms. Ptasnik  was born in Amsterdam in 1918 from a Jewish Polish family. In 1938 her family emigrated to the USA where Ilona married Adriaan van der Bilt with whom she returned to The Netherlands after the Second World War. From her jewellery collection appears a preference of gemstones, but apart from this, a large variety of styles, techniques and fashions.

The Museum got curious; Who was this woman, how did she look and what does her collection tell us about her life? The Museum asks us to help them bring her jewellery to life. We can contribute with stories, drawings, collages, poems – anything – with your idea about who Ilona Ptasnik was. You can send your work to: All contributions will form a part of the exhibition that shows Ms. Ptasnik’s jewellery collection from 25 September until 25 November in Schoonhoven. You will see what promises to be a very impressive collection and if your ideas correspond with reality. I can’t wait to see and who actually knew Ilona??

Good Dutch Art Nouveau Jewellery Is Hard To Find

Bert Nienhuis locket

Bert Nienhuis‘ designs are regarded as the most distinctive jewels of the Dutch equivalent of the international Art Nouveau movement; De Nieuwe Kunst, the movement that drastically ended the 19th century; historical styles and ecclecticism made way for natural forms and structures; flowers, plants and curved lines. Designs were harmonized with the natural environment.

Compared to the exhuberant international movement with its abundance of naturalistic flower, plant and animal motifs and decorative interplay of lines, the Dutch Art Nouveau variant was much more rational and restrained, in jewellery as well as in other applied arts and Architecture. Principles were the logical functional laws of construction and the individual qualities of each material used. Ornaments were only of secondary importance, often geometric and stilised.

Dutch Art Nouveau jewellery is rare.  This is one of these rare jewels; an 18 carat gold Dutch Art Nouveau locket pendant with 17 small rubies (16 x 0.01 en 1 x 0.04, app. 0.2 carats in total) and stilised green champleve enamel leaves, in the chain and the lock are little round plaques each decorated with four tiny dots of green enamel, designed by Bert Nienhuis and executed by Louis van Kooten, circa 1905-1911, Netherlands.

weight: 18.3 grams
diameter: 2.8 cm.

Bert Nienhuis attended the Amsterdam National School for Applied Arts until 1895 after which he was appointed as director of the earthenware factories “De Distel” and later “De Lotus”. Nienhuis also worked independently as ceramist. Only a short period he designed jewellery, from 1905 until 1911. He made approximately 27 different jewellery designs.

Characters of Nienhuis work are geometrical or organical ornamentation decorated with mat uni-colored enamels. He used gold and silver with modest use of gemstones. All the jewels were executed by L.W. van Kooten who worked for the Amsterdam jewellers, Hoeker & Sons, who showed a few of Nienhuis jewels in the International Exhibition in Brussels in 1910 where they won a gold and silver medal.

An identical locket is in the Hessisches Landesmuseum in Darmstadt which they bought in 1963 as a part of the collection of the Amsterdam jeweller, K.A. Citroen.

Literature: Jewellery 1820-1920, by R.J. Baarsen and G. van Berge, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam 1990, pages 72-79, Van Cooten, Kroniek van een Ambachtelijk Geslacht, by Louk van Kooten, Enschede 1994, pages 79-96, cat. 61.4100/E on page 92, Kunsthandewerk um 1900 by Gerhardt Bot, Darmstadt 1965, page 128, cat. 148.

Doris Duke’s pierrot by Van Cleef & Arpels

This charming Pierrot brooch has a nice provenance, it comes  from Doris Duke’s personal jewelry collection.

It was made for Van Cleef & Arpels designed and patented by Maurice Duvalet in 1949. Duvalet worked both for Van Cleef & Arpels and John Rubel & Co. and was most famous for his ballerina brooches that he designed for both companies.

One of the masterpieces at the Rare Jewels and Objets d’Art: A Superb Collection at Christies NY in 2009 was the diamond ruby and emerald “ballerina” brooch. Several ballerina brooches had been designed in the late thirties by Maurice Duvalet for the New York branch of Van Cleef & Arpels. This particular brooch depicts Maria Camargo, a Spanish star ballet dancer from the 18th century, posed in arabesque. The use of emeralds and rubies resulted in a brilliant rendering of the flowers set on her costume as pictured by a French painting from Nicolas Lancret. Maurice Duvalet designed this particular piece in 1942 and used mainly rose-cut diamonds which are reputed to have originated from the Spanish Crown Jewels. This piece was manufactured by John Rubel & Co, the usual manufacturer for Van Cleef & Arpels New York. Estimated by Christie’s at $80,000 to $120,000, the brooch reached $350,000 (before commission). Also the Arpels had close ties with the ballet and were influenced by the great dancers and choreographers of the day. They even approached George Balanchine to produce a ballet entitled ‘Jewels’ where various countries were represented by different precious stones.

Duvalet’s,  more modest Pierrot, is in the same style. It is made from 18 carat gold, weighing 9.8 grams.  The brooch has graduated cultured pearl arms and legs that move, and a cabochon ruby head.  It measures approximately 2 inches tall, and is signed and numbered: Van Cleef & Arpels, 15838.

This pierrot brooch was originally owned by the tobacco heiress, Doris Duke  (1912 – 1993).  All Ms. Duke’s jewellery was sold by Christie’s auction house in 2004.  Per Doris Duke’s instructions in her will, all of her jewelry was temporarily on display at her home, Rough Point, in Newport, Rhode Island prior to the auction.  Her jewelry collection was overwhelming.  Duke’s 399 piece jewelry collection was catalogued in Gems From the East and the West, The Doris Duke  Jewelry Collection, by Janet Zapata, Ulysses Dietz and Zette Emmons in 2003. Page 102 of the catalogue shows our Pierrot brooch.

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