themselves have been around as long as jewelry has, but the late 16th
century saw a rise in a peculiarly unique type of pendant. During the
Renaissance, the Baroque pearl became fashionable. A Baroque pearl is
one that is irregular in shape, and at this time the larger and more
irregular, the better. Jewelers had a tough time deciding what to do
with them. They began transforming them into the bodies of creatures
like dragons, dolphins and sea monsters. These are the
"Monstrous" animals of the Renaissance.
creatures were favored in England, particularly ones that come from
the sea. There are numerous examples of mermaids, mermen and sea
monsters, as well as more natural fish and dolphins. Figure 1 above,
shows two designs by goldsmith Erasmus Hornick (although German, many
of his jewels ended up sold to English patrons). The first is an
earthbound dragon being vanquished by the man on his back. The second
shows Poseidon astride his magnificent sea stallion. These designs
are very indicative of the types of pendants popular in England and
other north countries at this time.
Sea Dragon, ca 1575
dragon from about 1575 is made of two baroque pearls. The large,
rather grotesque one makes up his body, while a smaller, more oval
one makes up his tail. The dragon is made of gold with an abundance
of enameling to give it color. He also has smaller pearls accenting
his body, along with other gems (usually rubies or emeralds, but I
cannot tell from this picture). The chain from which the pendant
hangs also has pearls, and another drop shaped baroque pearl hangs
from the bottom of the beast, giving it balance. Most pendants of
this type have a single large pearl hanging from the bottom in this way.
The Canning Jewel
famous of these types of jewels is the Canning Jewel, so named after
the 2nd Viscount Canning, who bought it in India in about 1860. It
now resides in the Victoria & Albert Museum. It is a gorgeous
jewel, 4 inches long, with a large pearl in the shape of his torso.
He is made of gold and enamel, studded with rubies and diamonds. A
masterpiece of Renaissance goldsmthing. The problem is, it may not
have been made in the Renaissance.
but one name this as a late Renaissance piece. In Jewels and Jewelry,
Clare Phillips puts it under the Pearls section (p.21), and says that
it is now thought to be a Renaissance revival piece. Upon closer
inspection, it seems she might be right. There are just too many
small, faceted, square diamonds on this jewel. These types of gems
did not come into popular use until the next century. Joan Evans in A
History of Jewellery 1100-1870, does mention that the large ruby on
his tail must have been added later (p.112), but she makes no
arguments for it being entirely a later piece. The design elements
are certainly late Renaissance, from the use of the pearl, to the
subject of the merman, to the dangling drop pearl, but even to me,
the ruby jewel from which the drop pearl is hanging has a distinctly
Indian flavor to it.
animals were monstrous or mythical. Any animal could be a pendant,
from lions to rabbits.
This swan is a
brilliant example of a late, naturalistic pendant. The body is a
large, oval shaped pearl. Attached are gold wings, neck and head, all
accented with small cut stones and black and white enamel. This is
one of the finer examples of English naturalistic pendants. We know
of many others that no longer exist. While Queen Elizabeth was being
courted by Henry of Anjou, little jeweled frogs were all the rage
because of her habit of referring to him as her "little
frog". Existing inventories tell us of birds, bees, flies,
butterflies and parrots, executed in diamonds and other precious
stones, so they weren't always based on a baroque pearl.