Friday, October 06, 2006

More 16th c crosses

part 2

I collected some photos in a previous post that I keep around as a guide to what 16th and 17th-century crosses generally look like. Those were relatively plain ones; here are some of the fancier ones.

One type that's represented in quite a few museum collections is a cross made primarily to show off inset jewels: diamonds in the one on the left below, amethysts on the right. Some have solid backs, others have open-backed settings so that light can pass through the jewels. This is part of an overall trend in jewelry, beginning in the early 17th century and extending into the 18th and 19th, to emphasize the stones themselves, at the expense of the settings. Many medieval and Renaissance jewels have elaborate, heavily enameled settings around their jewels, sometimes with additional jewels, pearls or beads set in them. By the eighteenth century, brooches are often so thickly set with jewels that the settings are hidden, and you can't always even tell whether they're gold or silver without turning them over.


The crosses below show a bit more of the settings than the ones above. The one on the left is Spanish and set with emeralds (the original is in Barcelona, but I couldn't find a color photo).

Another thing to notice here, and in the previous post, is how many of the crosses have pendant pearls, either just at the foot of the cross, or from both the foot and the side arms. These pendent pearls are very characteristic of a lot of 16th-century jewelry; you see them on jewels shaped like ships, dolphins, castles and so forth. Even when the pearls have not survived, you can sometimes see attachment loops where they would have hung.


More elaborate again is the following, shown front and back, which has lots of enameled curlicues around the edges. The back has an elaborate pattern in enamels -- undoubtedly in color, again I couldn't find a color photo of this one, but compare it to the last one in the previous post.


I find it very helpful to look at actual examples like this when going shopping for suitable crosses to use for replicas (even though I often can't find any!). I find that, with time and experience, my eye for what period crosses actually look like does get better. And in particular, better at discriminating between crosses that actually do come from the Renaissance, and the crosses so many suppliers put out that are called "Medieval" or "Renaissance" but actually look nothing like them. Only the best of the 19th century fakers, such as Reinhold Vasters, seem to have studied the real Renaissance closely enough to produce something that's even slightly convincing.

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