The jewellery of María Dolores de Aldama, Marchioness of Montelo

 
]Federico de Madrazo 1815 Rome – 1894 Madrid | María Dolores de Aldama, Marchioness of Montelo 1855 | Oil on canvas | Collection: Museo Nacional del Prado | © Photographic Archive, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

This is the last post by Brisbane Jeweller, Barbara Heath focusing on the jewellery in ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado‘ 

Wealthy, young and beautiful, she drew the rich and powerful to her like moths to a flame. María Dolores de Aldama was a lady known for the soirees she held at her residence.

‘This young aristocrat, portrayed in three-quarter length, stands posed before the viewer wearing a magnificent black satin and velvet dress trimmed with lace and ribbons, a close-fitting bodice and a full, domed skirt. Her hair is smoothed and parted, with braids wound around her ears and gathered in the back, held in place with a large, bejewelled pin and lace frill. She wears, at her neckline, a splendid brooch made of gold, precious stones and pearls, and bracelets and rings on each of her arms and hands… she was the daughter of a wealthy Basque landholder based in Cuba, Domingo Aldama y Arechaga, and of Maria Rosa Alfonso y Soler. In Havana, in January 1835, she married her cousin, Jose Ramon de Alfonso y Garcia de Medina (1810–81), Senator of the Realm, Maestrante in the Cavalry Armoury (or Maestranza) of Zaragoza and a Knight of Charles III, who obtained the title of second Marquis of Montelo in 1864′. (1)

María Dolores de Aldama has jewelled rings, bracelets, hair pins and a brooch that brings us full circle back to the Renaissance. Artistic creativity in the 19th Century was influenced primarily by the imitation of style forms from the past. Often several historic revivals were popular at the same time — to us this doesn’t seem to make sense, but for people at this time revival and analysis of works from the past trained both observation and taste.

The name Castellani is almost synonymous with classical revival jewellery. Based in Rome, several generations of the family became famous for their Greek, Etruscan, Medieval and Renaissance style jewellery. From commercial to exhibition pieces their jewellery was often masterful copies of originals that had been excavated at various archeological sites around this time.

This kind of accurate replication contrasts with the ideals of John Ruskin in 1853 — who believed that the true artist should not slavishly copy something of past times without incorporating some new inventive aspect.

‘No artist has any business to be an antiquarian’

By the end of the 1800’s this idea would underwrite the overthrow of the old artistic paradigms and jewellery in particular, like the society it so faithfully mirrors — was about to re-invent itself in the most radical ways.

Endnote
(1) You can read more about María Dolores de Aldama, Marchioness of Montelo by Jose Luis Diez in the illustrated exhibition catalogue Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.

‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado’ ends this Sunday 4 November. Last tickets 4pm.

 

The Jewellery of Mrs Delicado de Imaz

 
Vicente López Portaña 1772 Valencia – 1850 Madrid | Mrs Delicado de Imaz (La señora de Delicado de Imaz) (detail) c.1833 | Oil on canvas | Collection: Museo Nacional del Prado | © Photographic Archive, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

This is the second last post by Brisbane Jeweller, Barbara Heath focusing on the jewellery in ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado‘. 

Vicente López Portaña’s technical skill and precise depictions made him a favourite painter to a society eager to show off their status. His attention to detail knows no bounds — so we can only hope that Mrs Delicado de Imaz was not vain. However, we can be thankful for the almost photographic depiction of the fabrics and jewellery.

‘The lady depicted here, around 50 years of age, is represented slightly greater than half-length, seated on a chair upholstered in green cloth, with a striking cashmere shawl of vivid colours lying on one of its arms. She is wearing a dark blue velvet dress with a lace mantilla covering her shoulders. Richly bejewelled, she wears a magnificent bracelet and a ring on her right hand, in which she is also holding a fan, while her gloved left hand rests on her lap. She wears her hair done up in the fashionable style called tres potencias (literally, ‘three powers’), with tight curls on the sides and a large topknot held in place with a magnificent pin shaped like a crescent moon and star, studded with diamonds, matching the chain on her forehead, her earrings and brooch. From the belt of her dress hangs the chain of a gold watch.’ (1)

A set of several matching pieces, the parure became popular. A parure consisted of necklace, earrings, a breast ornament, two bracelets and a diadem. A demi-parure — a necklace, earrings and a brooch.

Mrs Delicado de Imaz wears a ‘Sevigné’ brooch — a style made popular by the marquise of Sevigné at the French court of Louis 14th — originally in the shape of a bow worn low on the bodice — but later this evolved to become more elaborate and sometimes suspending pearls or gems in the ‘girandole’ style.

Her bracelet shows a revival of rococo style and seems to be set with shaped and polished crystal — certainly paste or lead crystal was not a new invention — it had reached its peak in the 1700’s to meet the demands of a new middle class. The industrial revolution had brought constant material and technical innovations and by the 1820’s jewellery was being made by soldering together several stamped sheet gold components. Mrs Delicado de Imaz seems to be bridging  both older and new trends in her jewellery.

Endnote
(1) You can read more about Mrs Delicado de Imaz by Jose Luis Diez in the illustrated exhibition catalogue Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.

 

The Jewellery of widow María Antonia Gonzaga

 
Francisco de Goya, 1746 Fuendetodos, Zaragoza – 1828 Bordeaux | María Antonia Gonzaga, Marchioness widow of Villafranca (María Antonia Gonzaga, marquesa viuda de Villafranca) (detail) c.1795 | Oil on canvas | Collection: Museo Nacional del Prado | © Photographic Archive, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

This is the fourth post by Brisbane Jeweller, Barbara Heath focusing on the jewellery in ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado‘. 

Francisco de Goya’s portrait captures a small woman with a strong character — one can imagine her maintaining decisive control of her family’s fortunes. Her white shawl, ribbons and rose reveal a new softness and delicacy in vogue as fashions now took their lead from France.

‘For this image of the marchioness, Goya has avoided the conventional model of a stately and formal full-length portrait of a lady standing in the midst of her properties. Rather, this threequarter length portrait presents the sitter in an intimate light, seated on an austere, though elegant, chair with a gilt frame in the style of the reign of Charles IV. The refined elegance of her dress is reflective of the French-influenced styles then in fashion and includes elements that were typical feminine adornments at the time, such as the blue silk cockade she wears in her large powdered wig, her rose brooch, and the blue ribbon tied around her white shawl. The play of light on the shawl’s slightly transparent chiffon allows Goya — utilising the devices of Venetian painters like Titian — to highlight the marchioness’s delicate intelligent features and sensitive, reflexive facial expression.’ (1)

During the 1700’s the sublime gave way to the delightful, the dignified to the graceful, grandeur of size to the charm of elegance. Along with an increased regard for women — the expression of tenderness and feelings became more important.

Diamonds were by now mined in Brazil and the quantities imported had increased 10 times the amount as in the last years of Indian production. An early form of the brilliant cut had been invented — there was a whole new sparkle to the jewellery trade.

No more heavy gold settings or straight rows of gems — a new lightness permeated. Diamonds were now set in silver to best show off their whiteness — and as the settings became lighter, metal was relegated to a supporting role. These airy designs expressed the new naturalism — stones were set at varying angles rather than face on to the viewer — with the result of even more sparkle as the wearer moved.

Improvements in lighting became widespread and the wealthy now owned daytime and evening jewellery — diamonds became synonymous with glittering ballrooms and sparkling conversation across candelabra laden dinner tables.

Endnote
(1) You can read more about María Antonia Gonzaga by Manuela Mena Marques in the illustrated exhibition catalogue Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.

The Jewellery of Tomás de Iriarte

 
Joaquín Inza 1736, Ágreda, Soria – 1811, Madrid | Portrait of Tomás de Iriarte (detail) c.1780–85 | Oil on canvas | Collection: Museo Nacional del Prado | © Photographic Archive, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

This is the third post by Brisbane Jeweller, Barbara Heath focusing on the jewellery in ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado‘. 

The poet, playwright and composer Tomás de Iriarte (1750–91) who appears to be around 35 in this portrait wears a hard stone cameo on his little finger — two centuries on from Clara Eugenia’s symbol of dynastic continuity this would have a different reading. People are tired now of the bizarre flourishes of the Rococo Period which have come to represent everything excessive about the ancient regime and are drawn to the clarity of Classical Antiquity after the excavations of Pompei in the mid 1700’s and the subsequent illustrations in literature describing travel to classical sites. After all, the values of the enlightenment were partly drawn from Roman History — virtue, tolerance, freedom equality and brotherhood. The classical heroes often depicted in these carved gems embodied these ideals.

Tomás de Iriarte, the moralist, satirist and the intellectual wears an emblem of Neo-Classicism and declares a love of humanist ideals here on his little finger, the lovers finger.

In this painting ‘he sports a greyish wig with a ponytail that can be seen in shadow, falling down his back, and wears a navy blue coat and red waistcoat in which he hides his right hand as was fashionable at the time. Both garments are trimmed with a palmate motif in gold, and his shirt is adorned with lace ruffles on the front and at the wrists. This is the uniform corresponding to his post as the archivist of the Supreme Council of War, a position he held from 1776. In the lower left-hand corner is a table on which an inkwell with two pens, a folded sheet of paper and a book are placed, attributes that allude to his vocation as a translator, poet and playwright. His great passion for music is indicated by the book he holds upright with his left hand, the title of which is legible on the spine: La música, poema (Music, a poem), a didactic work in verse Iriarte published in 1779 and which led to immediate international recognition. Likewise, the ring on his pinkie finger bearing a cameo may possibly refer to his nickname, Camafeo (‘cameo’) with which his friend the Marquis of Manca, Don Manuel Delitala, christened him, owing to a gesture that Iriarte made when he played the violin.’ (1)

Endnote: You can read more about Tomás de Iriarte by Virginia Albarrán Martín in the exhibition catalogue Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.

The jewellery of Empress Margarita of Austria

 
Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo, c.1611, Cuenca – 1667, Madrid | Empress Margarita of Austria (La emperatriz Margarita de Austria) (detail) 1665–66 | Oil on canvas | Collection: Museo Nacional del Prado | © Photographic Archive, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

This is the second post by Brisbane Jeweller, Barbara Heath focusing on the jewellery in ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado‘. 

‘Margarita was born on 12 July 1651, the daughter of Philip IV and Mariana of Austria. On 12 December 1666, she married Emperor Leopold of Austria and died seven years later in Vienna. The fact that the princess is wearing mourning dress in this painting helps date it between September 1665 — when her father died — and her wedding in December 1666. Those dates suggest that the portrait was made in order to keep a memento in Madrid that would represent the infanta as she appeared shortly before she left permanently for Vienna.’ (1)

Margarita would travel shortly after this portrait was painted to marry — as stipulated by her father — to ensure the succession of the Spanish throne would pass to her descendants. Despite the age difference they had a happy marriage and shared an interest in the theatre and music — they had four children, however Margarita died at 21.

Here she wears jet bracelets, rings and large earrings or hair ornaments of black ribbon — her siblings in similar sober attire in the background.

Margarita effectively became Queen of Germany and she would have had a lavish collection of jewellery as part of her dowry. One enormous diamond of 36cts was auctioned at Christies in 2008. The blue diamond sold for 24.3 million, the highest price paid for a diamond at auction. Purchased by London jeweller Laurence Graff who raised eyebrows when he re-cut the gem losing 4.45 cts and indeterminable historical significance, although it resulted in a diamond of technically higher calibre.

Endnote: You can read more about Empress Margarita of Austria by Javier Portús in the illustrated exhibition catalogue Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.

The jewellery of Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia

 
Alonso Sánchez Coello and workshop, Benifairó de les Valls, Valencia c.1531 – 1588, Madrid | The infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia and Magdalena Ruiz (La infanta Isabel Clara Eugenia y Magdalena Ruiz) (detail) c.1585-88 | Oil on canvas | Collection: Museo Nacional del Prado | © Photographic Archive, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

This is the first of six posts by Brisbane Jeweller, Barbara Heath focusing on jewellery in ‘Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado‘ currently on view at the Queensland Art Gallery. Barbara is giving a talk on jewellery this Saturday, 2:30pm.

Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia (1566–1633), Philip II’s elder daughter and one of the most important women in the Spanish dynasty can be seen here dressed in her stiff bodice dripping with jewels from her mother and her stepmother. She wears a formal dress made of white silk, heavily embroidered with gold thread; the high collar with its delicate lace trim and the feathered headdress each correspond to Spanish fashion in the mid to late 1580s.

Isabella Clara Eugenia represents the wealth of the Spanish Court, which by the mid 16th Century, enriched by the New World and its gold and emeralds, was leading Europe into its last great epoch of formal ostentatious display in which the art of jewellery played such an important role.

There are three important aspects to the context of this painting: the artistic and intellectual revolutions of the Renaissance; the techniques of rendering a more natural reality applied as much to jewellery as other art forms; and, a time of discovery on a global scale.

Christopher Columbus reached America in 1492, then Vasco de Gama sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in 1497 to new lands and new riches. In the 1500’s the centuries old conduit for precious goods travelling from the east to the west — The Silk Road — was overthrown by these new sea routes to the gem rich countries of Ceylon, Burma and India, shifting the centres of trade in luxury goods from Venice to Seville and Lisbon.

There was enormous potential for jewellery with the new materials and new styles — but equally significant was the recent development of the printing press — this really was an information revolution enabling designs to be distributed throughout the goldsmiths workshops of Europe.

Isabella Clara Eugenia  uses her jewellery — in no subtle way — to display power and status — the sumptuous necklaces inherited from her mothers family re-enforce her matrilineal power base, while the hard stone cameo she holds in her right hand is a portrait of her father Philip II — presents the viewer with a strong sense of dynastic continuity.

You can read more about The infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia by Leticia Ruiz Gómez in the richly illustrated exhibition catalogue Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado.