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Description

Gold necklace with openwork centerpiece in the form of a cartouche of intertwined scrollwork in gold and opaque white with pink hues, fine black lines and dots, interspersed with box-set and table-cut diamonds and sapphires. Suspended from this is an oval pendant with matching scroll frame. A winged Cupid holds a flaming torch and a quiver and bow hang over the shoulder. Cupid rides over the clouds in a red and golden chariot drawn by two doves. The chain has foliate diamond-shaped links with pink enameled rosettes (some enamel missing) and double loops, hook and loop clasp with lyre ornament. On both clasp ends are the lozenge-shaped maker’s mark for Auguste Perette and the eagle’s head. Fitted case.

Auguste Perette remains something of a mystery despite his evident skill as a jeweler. He registered his mark in 1856, which he ceased to use in 1910, and his address is recorded as rue Ferdinand in Paris. The single biographical source describes him simply as an expert in “bijouterie argent,” a term meant to distinguish him from jewelers who primarily employed precious gemstones. Perhaps one day the archives will divulge further information on his activity.

In the meantime, his skillful Renaissance-inspired works speak for themselves. We have located less than a half dozen of his surviving works, many celebrating love, including an exquisite bracelet in the Victoria and Albert Museum and a “Slave” necklace and earrings in the Musée des arts décoratifs. The present necklace features a finely painted, concave Limoges-style enamel of Cupid, the son of the goddess of love Venus, symbolizing desire, attraction, and affection. Playing up the theme of romantic love are the doves guiding the chariot and the flaming torch. The surround of box set diamonds alternating with sapphires suggest a betrothal and stand for constancy and virtue (diamonds) and romantic love (sapphires).

The spirit of the Renaissance is evoked in the scrollwork inspired by sixteenth-century ornamental prints, readily available as reprints, whilst the style of enameling with pink highlights composed of fine lines and dots on opaque white enamel goes back to the elaborate mounts of the early- to mid-seventeenth century found on the hardstone vases of the French Royal Collection. These caught the eye of the Paris jewelers in 1861 when they were redisplayed in the Louvre.

Literature:

compare a bracelet with love symbols and another gold enameled watch in the Victoria and Albert Museum (inv. nos. M.162-2007 and M.295-1919); and a “collier d’esclavage” in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris (inv. no. 9958C and D, 9959 B).

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