- Precious Metal Weight: About 4 dwt (an estimation presuming the removal of both glass lenses and the internal portrait)
- Precious Metal Material: 9k rose gold
- Dimensions: This pendant measures 43.40 mm north to south including the top bail loop (length) x 27.50 mm east to west (width) x 4.50 mm back to front (depth). The oval lenses (openings) are about 25 mm long x about 20 mm wide; the piece's handcrafted origins are exhibited in the openings' slight variances in size, but do appear identical to the eye.
- Weight: A wonderfully weighty 6.95 grams
- Markings: Rounding the base of one side of the locket is a raised "9CT" cartouche.
- Era: The portrait housed inside of this locket is believed to date to about 1785-1790, while the rose gold locket is believed to date to about 1900.
- Buyer Notes: This piece, though seemingly simple, reveals an extraordinary history. Prospective buyers are strongly encouraged to read "The Story" in full in order to more robustly understand the remarkable past that comes with this pendant portrait. All historic, material and conditional attributes of the portrait itself are noted there. As for the 9k rose gold locket, please note the wear to the top loop and bail where friction over time between both has caused wearing to the metal. Also note the trace amounts of solder to the added bail (larger, articulated loop), as well as dings here and there to the gold form. All wear is commensurate with age and use. This pendant does not come with a chain or necklace, but please note that the top bail loop has an internal diameter (opening) of 4 mm. It is best to plan for a chain that is no thicker than 3.90 mm to ensure a good fit for this piece.
This portrait locket pendant is a fascinating jewel with a mysterious past, and while its exact provenance cannot be determined, jewelry and art history help to unveil its roots and symbolism. The painted portrait, itself, is an utterly remarkable 217+ years old, and it predates the locket by about 115 years or so. The 9k rose gold double sided locket pendant is Edwardian, and boasts the refined simplicity of the era in its delicate scrolling details. Both glass lenses appear to be original to the locket, and the lenses' rose gold frames may be carefully popped out to add or remove keepsakes. The portrait within likely began life in another gold frame under beveled glass, either in the form of a wearable pendant, or as a tabletop or wall hung piece. However, at some point after the turn of the 20th century, the disparate components were married to become the pendant we have today. While the locket is stunning on its own, the portrait is the prize of this jewel:
Portrait miniatures were considered cherished, personal keepsakes before the invention of the photographic camera, and were actually one of the securest avenues for artists to maintain a living during the 17th and 18th centuries. Beginning in the 1500s, watercolor on very fine vellum were the mediums of choice for portrait miniatures, which were then adhered to the unprinted side of a playing card (or other paper of similar weight) using a starch paste. The card backing worked to provide a bright, plain surface and structural support. Eventually vellum was replaced by ivory (bone), which was sometimes adhered to a card backing and sometimes not. This portrait at hand does bear a card backing as described, and the crack running from approximately the 8 o'clock to the 11 o'clock positions evidences that it is likely made of ivory or bone, being that a crack of this nature can only exist on a hard substrate such as bone.
By the mid to late 1700s, ivory was sliced into extremely thin sheets, so thin that they were inherently translucent. It was thought that the translucency ivory granted the skin of the sitter a more realistic impression, and in conjunction with the airiness of watercolor paints, light could subtly enter and bounce out of the portrait and give the subject a more realistic human quality. Because ivory is nonabsorbent, the surface was prepped for painting with gentle stripping process, in which a vinegar and garlic poultice was applied, and subsequently roughened by sanding. Gum arabic was also commonly added as a binder to watercolors so as to achieve a stickier quality that clung to the ivory surface with greater adherence. The watercolor used for this portrait would most likely have been from a set of commercially-prepared artists’ paints, readily available on the market.
Please note that very close examination shows that the figural image may have been retouched at some point in its two-century life, though without x-raying the painting, this possibility cannot be guaranteed. If true, some of the apparent wear to the portrait may be due to any attempted retouching, though it is also the case that watercolors are prone to fade when exposed to bright light. The age of the portrait justifies its materiality and wear, though the cause of wear cannot be directly determined. Additionally, there appears to be a few strokes of green ink added to the far lower-right edge of the portrait in a historic attempt to remedy the look of a chipped edge. This is not readily apparent when worn (see photos), but is noted for buyer transparency. In its present state, we consider all of its possible changes over time as character-adding attributes that accurately tell the pendant's story and contribute to the its beguiling mystery. Please review the photos to make all judgements before purchasing.
Though touched by time and ample affection, the now-worn portrait was hand painted by an artist in the mid to late 1780s. The skill level and degree of technical adherence displayed in the figure suggest that the artist may be classified as being of the English Provincial School, a school which may be identified for its more amateur nuance in painting and likeness. Simply put, this portrait is not greatly valued as a masterpiece of artistic achievement, and instead, is charming in its jejune aesthetic. As the portrait is unsigned, clues of its maker are derived from the presumed sitter's raiment and pose, as well as the painting's more amateurish talent.
The female sitter is regarded as a woman of means, likely of the gentry. She dons a fine, dyed silk gown and lace fichu atop her bust, wears a plumed Gainsborough chapeau and is even flirtatiously outfitted with multiple tucked rose posies. Generally, such a wealthy commissioner would have a hired a leader in portraiture to capture her likeness. On the other hand, this portrait is comprised of primitive attempts to reflect the sitter's status, though the artist's inexperience in portrait-making is revealed through the piece's rudimentary strokes and naïve understanding of the proportions of the human body. Even so, the piece does not feel artless at all. Rather, it feels innocent-- alluringly sweet, at that. This innocent nature may indicate that it was painted by a student or hobbyist, either youth or adult.
Emblematic of the portrait's time, it is believed to be composed after the very famous portrait of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (who was the great-great-great-great aunt of Diana, Princess of Wales), painted by Thomas Gainsborough between 1785 and 1787. This famed portrait was one of many completed of the Duchess by both Gainsborough, and fellow artist-contemporary Joshua Reynolds. It drew acclaim for the high fashion depicted, and most notably, the dramatic, black felt, wide-brimmed hat the Duchess wears in the image. In fact, the Duchess actually designed the oversized hat herself and had it custom-made. The painting generated a flurry of interest in the accessory, and once the painting was widely exhibited, women all over the country flocked to milliners to have their own 'Gainsborough' or 'Picture' hat made. In addition to hat trends, artists during this time began to model their portraits after the Duchess' pose, disposition, attire and hairstyle illustrated in the original painting. This callow portrait is one such piece, most prominently differing from the original in this subject's blonde hair and her mirrored orientation to that of the Duchess. Such a frenzy of imitation by the public surely must have been a most exciting form of flattery for the Duchess.
Though the identity of this elegant sitter is no longer known, her grace is no less revered and her significance no less felt.
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