Category Archives: History

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.

www_18thcentury_diamond_girandole_earrings

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: info@zilvermuseum.nl. 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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the Utrecht Museum of Musical Clocks presents Emperor Qianlong’s Singsongs: paste extravaganza

In Utrecht we have a unique museum: the Museum Speelklok (Museum of Musical Clocks). They house any kind of automatic  musical instrument, such as this monster of a carousel. Until 28 February a very special exhibition SingSong displays a selection of clocks representing the most important objects from the Qing dynasty. Leading European clockmakers, such as the master of the craft James Cox, produced many of these magical and mysteriously frivolous showpieces. They have never left China before.

Although they do contain proper clock movements, their main aim was not to tell the time but to amuse and impress, making them exclusive and expensive toys for prominent adults. The exotic designs went way beyond any imagination expressed in the European rococo and chinoiserie of the time. During the 18th century, the most spectacular and costly clocks were traded from the West to China. The clocks were much sought after by the Chinese emperors and were also highly desirable gifts.

Singsong

Some enchanting clocks played music every quarter of an hour, and the Chinese called this novelty ‘the clock that plays by itself’, or in Chinese: ‘zimingzhong’. This word was anglicised into ‘singsong’, the equivalent of the musical clock. Emperor Qianlong (1736-1796) accumulated a vast collection of these fascinating and imaginative clocks, which now form part of the collection of the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City (Beijing).  For three years Museum Speelklok and the Palace Museum have restored the imperial clocks together. The exhibition also gives a great insight in this complicated collaboration.

The Pagoda clock

This clock is one of a pair of identical, fire-gilded bronze pagoda clocks. The pagodas have five levels, with roofs decorated with bells, garlands and pastes: glass which has been cut into gem-like forms imitation gemstones. The paste decorations are completely over the top.  Each hour on the hour, music plays and the pagoda clocks open up telescopically (to a height of almost two metres!), only to fall back again to their original size during the hour that follows.

The Elephant & the Pavillion clock

Watch these clock play below.

Paste

Georges Frederic Strass (1701-1773) invented the much desired gem imitation in 1730 and due to the huge success of the invented technique was awarded with the title King’s Jeweler in 1743. The glass “gems” could be set in silver or gold and could have been foiled or unfoiled. The 18th century pastes demonstrated on the SingSongs were always foiled. Foiled pastes were usually seen in closed-backed settings where the foil provided added reflection and brilliance. Pastes were much easier cut and shaped than real gems, making this close-fitting pavé look achievable. You see every color imaginal, including opaline pastes that are similar to opals as in this brooch. Only two gems real are used; amethysts and  chrysolite.

Paste in the Singsongs

Paste jewels are still immensely popular, but I have never seen examples like this before! Pay attention to the bouquet on top of the Elephant clock  in the movie above. Just imagine these bouquets on your shoulder, or just a tiny one…



Gold from Georgia: Jason’s golden fleece

From June until August 2010 the Drents Museum shows treasures form ancient Georgia.

Jason was a great Thessalian hero who led the Argonauts in the quest for the Golden Fleece of king Aietes in order to place Jason on the throne of Iolcus in Thessaly (the West of present Georgia). Jason succeeds with the help of Medea daughter of Aietes and his wife to be.

This classical Greek myth bears some truth. The golden fleece refers to a method of gold recovery from the streams in the Caucasus mountains. Sheep fleeces were submerged in the stream, and gold deposits would then stick to the fleece.

The beautiful treasures were made at the time of Jason quest. They are on a world tour and presently exhibited in Assen. Their home is the national Georgian Museum in Tbilisi. These 150 gold, silver and bronze objects from the Bronze age to the Roman era show high standard metal techniques. Especially the gold excavations from the temple city Vani (supposedly the city of Aietes in the 8th to 1th century BC) are made by extremely skilled goldsmiths; the tiniest granulations. This is an extremely difficult method by means of which tiny balls of solid gold are attached to a gold surface without soldering but rather through a chemical reaction between the gold and heated copper or malachite. In Greek, malachite is called chrysocolla; glue of gold.