Double Portrait Miniature Brooch / Romantic and Idealised Love x 2

June 7, 2011

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

The serpent! What a wonderful motif, I think I can safely say that I consider it one of my favourite symbols and I think I’m in good company there.

We have a remarkable brooch here, it contains so much rich symbolism that you can’t look at any part of it and not be in awe of its sentimental function. Why is this so?

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

Well, for starters, we have the serpent, a symbol which represents eternity, often to ‘love another for eternity’ (if the piece is dedicated to someone or from someone), also rebirth and immortality. In this context, the serpent is swallowing its tail clearly shows the ‘eternity’, as it forever creates a never ending circuit around the brooch. This is a very poignant thing to note when faced with the miniatures inside.

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

Here, we have dual portraits of the same lady painted upon ivory, something which is very rare and quite unusual. We have to be careful here that they are exactly the same woman and not sisters, so without a solid dedication, we can only suggest that it is based on countenance, but it would not stretch the imagination to suggest so.

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

What aids the context of the singular in the portrait is the hairwork itself, a single type, we can assume. For when this brooch was produced (c.1850-60), it uses the painting on ivory method that was relegated for those who could afford it and steers the piece into the realm of artistic interpretation, rather than the literal photograph that was becoming more and more ubiquitous for its time and used in jewels for sentimental reasons. Note also the romantic depiction of the subject; this isn’t a portrait that is directly there to capture the bare fact of the subject, but it is a portrait which elevates the subject into the mythic projections of love. This can be seen in the gentle pose of her, the open, supple mouth ruddy cheeks and large, auburn eyes – all of these things are idealistic. The subject is depicted on a dark background and from the costume in the profile, we can see another link to the anachronistic and idealised romantic fashion; this certainly isn’t a portrait meant for literal consumption in a formal society.

Double Portrait Miniature Brooch

What are we left with, apart from many questions? The same thing we’re always left with when looking at these jewels; love.

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