Gold brooch in the form of a quatrefoil with ornamental twisted wire edging on the contours and framing the central openwork cross. The circular ends of the cross and center each have a collet-set ruby cabochon surrounded by beading and decorative twisted wires, and the arm of the cross has lozenge-shaped cabochon emeralds. Symmetrical spiky dark green foliage in cloisonné enamel against opaque turquoise enamel forms the background. On the reverse is a gold plaque with monogram ‘CC’ in relief.
Fortunato Pio Castellani is one of the most important of the Revival jewelers of the nineteenth century. Founder in Rome of a dynasty of jewelers that included Alessandro, Augusto, and Alfredo, he is renowned for his introduction of archaeological revivals, which became all the rage throughout Europe by mid-century. Initially exhibited in the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris, Castellani jewelry was again prominently displayed in 1862 in London, when a jury awarded Castellani a medal for the “excellence of design and workmanship … each object … is a study for the archaeologist, the artist, and the workman.”
The 1862 International Exhibition in London featured this brooch (or one virtually identical to it). In a chromolithograph entitled “Jewelry in Gold. By Castellani of Rome,” it is reproduced by J. B. Waring, who was the superintendent of the architectural gallery at the exhibition and composed a three-volume work Masterpieces of Industrial Art and Sculpture at the International Exhibition. Until now, only one similar jewel has come to light, in the Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia in Rome; however, the present brooch is closer to the one in Waring’s plate.
The dynamic composition of this beautiful quatrefoil brooch with its cross, geometric shapes, cabochon gemstones, enamel, and decorative details of Early Christian, Byzantine, and medieval inspiration is reminiscent of drawings by Michelangelo Caetani. Caetani was a talented polymath – historian, Dante scholar, aesthete, and artisan – who from 1826 maintained a lifelong friendship and collaboration with Castellani. Other stylistic influences evident in the brooch include early medieval jewelry for the pearls on studs and archaeological jewels as found in the Collection of the Marchese Campana for the ornamental twisted wires with beading.
for his collaboration with Michelangelo Caetani, see Munn 1984, pp. 38 ff.; for the brooch from the 1862 London exhibition, see Soros/Walker 2004, p. 228, fig. 9-1, and one with a similar design is Soros/Walker 2004, p. 249, fig. 9-46; and Munn 1984, pp. 44–45, fig. 41, 44, and 49 (for drawings and surviving pieces by Caetani).