A Spanish Colonial gold, enamel and gem-set pendant,
Lot 20
A Spanish Colonial gold, enamel and gem-set pendant,
Sold for £103,250 (US$ 173,870) inc. premium
Auction Details
Lot Details
A Spanish Colonial gold, enamel and gem-set pendant, circa 1620 with 19th century additions
Modelled as a parrot with outstretched wings, decorated with polychrome enamel over an engraved gold ground resembling multi-coloured iridescent plumage, the breast collet-set with a large cabochon emerald, the wings, head and back set with square-cut emeralds and rubies in box collet-settings, the eyes with cabochon rubies, perching on an emerald and enamel branch, suspended from an emerald and baroque pearl pendant via scrolling gold and red enamel chains, one emerald a later paste replacement, enamel imperfect, length 9.0cm

Footnotes

  • The portrait of Elizabeth Brydges, painted by Custodis in 1589, shows her wearing multiple jewelled pendants in her hair, on her ruff and on her dress. Of particular note is the extraordinary pendant of a gold and pearl sea creature with a green enamel toad riding on its back which is suspended from her sleeve by gold chains.

    The 16th century saw a fashion in Europe for fanciful jewelled pendants such as this and designs varied from mermen and mermaids to dragons, seahorses, centaurs, hippocamps, pelicans, phoenixes and griffons. Spanish zoomorphic jewels of the genre tended to be less fantastical and as noted by Patricia Muller, by the late 16th century the parrot pendant came to typify Spanish jewellery design. South American species of parrot were an exotic and valuable commodity and live specimens traded for high prices before entering the menageries of wealthy Spaniards in Madrid. The parrot also appeared on 16th and 17th century maps as an icon of the Americas. Therefore, it is not surprising that Spanish and Spanish Colonial jewellers translated the image of this exotic bird into contemporary jewellery designs and Spain's extensive empire in the New World yielded a valuable resource in gemstones and gold with which to make them. However, the parrot pendant is rarely seen adorning the dress of Spanish nobles in portraits of the time and as several late 16th and early 17th century examples survive in church treasuries, Muller concludes that the parrot pendant was also regarded as symbolic of flight, the spirit and the soul and was used as a votive offering.

    The parrot jewel offered here is certainly a rare survivor from this period and it is reasonable to suppose that it was executed in the New World rather than in Spain due to the quality of workmanhip and the use of a large cabochon emerald in its breast (Spanish jewels usually incorporated facetted gemstones). Although relatively little is known about Spanish Colonial production, it is known that such jewels were made in quantity in Guatemala. It most likely underwent alteration in the 19th century because the suspension chains and pendant loop bear similarity to the work of the 19th century Parisian goldsmith Alfred André (1839-1919). The perch is also believed to be a later replacement. André was one of the most highly respected restorers of Medieval and Renaissance art in Europe. He was employed to restore a Milanese rock crystal casket in the Escorial and was awarded the Order of Charles III by the Spanish Royal family in 1885. At his workshop in Paris, André not only restored and "improved" Renaissance jewels but since the late 20th century discovery of André's collection of moulds, models and casts of Renaissance prototypes, it is now known he also manufactured jewels in Renaissance style in keeping with the 19th century demand for Renaissance jewelled objects.

    As far as it is known, this parrot pendant has been in the same family since the early 19th century and their Spanish ancestors hailed from Central America.

    Similar 16th and 17th century examples of parrot pendants may be seen in the collections of the Museo Arquelógico Nacional, Madrid, the British Museum, London and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London.

    Further reading
    Priscilla E Muller, Jewels in Spain, 1500-1800, Hispanic Society of America, 2012 edition
    The Robert Lehman Collection, Decorative Arts, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2012, chapter on Jewellery by Charles Truman
    Dame Joan Evans, A History of Jewellery, 1100-1870, Dover Publications, New York, 1970
    Yvonne Hackenbroch, Renaissance Jewellery, London, 1979
    Exhibition Catalogue, Princely Magnificence, Court Jewels of the Renaissance, 1500-1630, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 1981
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