Renaissance Pectoral Cross Pendant
This beautiful pendant is a fine example of the sort of cross worn and treasured by members of the Catholic courts in Germany and Spain during the seventeenth century. The type is attested in depictions of jewelry in portraits such as those of Anne of Austria, as well as in jewelers’ designs that survive in sketches and pattern books. In contrast to Anne’s sumptuous cross, however, here the table-cut “rubies” are paste backed with red foil, a technique that gives them a vibrant glow. The value of this cross lies not in precious gems but rather in its consummate workmanship in gold and shining enamel. It likely once had valuable pearls hanging from the three surviving rings as in a drawing from the Llibres de Passanties. (In fact, the use of paste in this cross might have ensured the object’s survival; had the gems been rubies, it might well have been broken apart for the value of the stones.)
Michael Wellby Collection; his sale, London, Sotheby’s, 11 December 2012, no. 3 (Wellby [d. 2012] donated a large part of his collection to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford).