Bracelet with Angel Playing a Viol (Harmony)
Silver bracelet with five links on either side of the central plaque, each consisting of a mirrored, lyre-shaped scroll motif with fleurs-de-lis and connecting loops with gilded domes. In the center is an open, translucent dark blue enameled mandorla with a sculptural winged figure playing a viol in silver standing on a canopy in a Gothic style niche. On either side of the mandorla are white enameled lozenge motifs each with four trefoils outlined in gold. On the reverse of the frame of the central plaque is the maker’s mark: FROMENT-MEURICE.
Likened by his contemporaries to the Renaissance goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, Froment-Meurice became the leading jeweler of the Romantic era in Paris. His sculpturesque compositions in a “troubadour style” were chiefly inspired by Gothic works of art, which were plentiful in the first half of the nineteenth century. In Paris, the founding of the Musée des monuments historiques (1795) and the Musée du Cluny (1853), the latter with 1,500 medieval objects from Alexandre du Sommerard’s (1779–1842) collection, in addition to the architect Eugene Viollet-le-Duc’s (1814–1879) program of restoration of French cathedrals, provide a context for understanding the creation and enthusiastic reception of Froment-Meurice’s jewelry.
Evidently produced in series, the figure of an angel playing a viol on this bracelet was the most popular model among Froment-Meurice’s compositions. The cast figure echoes French cathedral sculpture of the thirteenth century, the niche and canopy imitating those on the façade of Notre-Dame. Many variations exist – on brooches, chatelaines, pendants, and bracelets – with or without wings, sometimes with additional cherubs, and occasionally with altered architecture. The subject is often identified as Saint Cecilia, patron saint of music, or as Harmony. The title of Harmony occurs in the earliest biography of the jeweler in 1883, which cites a work of this theme as the property of the jeweler’s widow.
The origin of the design dates to 1847, based on a drawing of that date published by Henri Vever. It was probably Jules Wièse, the collaborator and foreman of Froment-Meurice from 1839 to 1855, who executed the figure, employing a darkened, oxidized silver in response to the taste of the time.
Pierre Le-Tan (1950–2015), Paris, French artist, draftsman, furniture designer, illustrator.
(compare) Burty 1883, p. 50; Vever 2001, p. 234; Tait 1984, vol. II, cat. no. 1019 (a pendant in the British Museum); Victoria and Albert Museum, London (inv. no. M.12-1964); Falk 2004, fig. 5 (brooch in the Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim); exh. cat. Trésors d’argent 2003, p. 199, no. 51 (brooch in the Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt); and exh. cat. Pariser Schmuck 1989, p. 86, no. 4 (chatelaine in the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Karlsruhe).