Once upon a time in a land far, far away there was a most exquisite pendant….

The front of the mourning pendant - note the use of pink. I can't imagine that this would have occurred in an English mourning piece. Travelling from continent to continent it now resides in Australia.

This story is about collecting. I promise there will be another tale about the potent beauty and sentiment of this piece. However, back to the land of far, far away, the land of collectors, it is called – The Internet.

A few years ago I fell in love. It was a complicated love, one born of desire for beauty, but one also springing from a much deeper place of empathy and respect. It was instigated by my sisters, they (under my instruction) went to Gray’s Antiques in London to collect a rather special ring that I had recently purchased. They were also under instruction to have a look at a few other pieces I was interested in. What they recommended was this extraordinary French pendant. They described the size, colour and detail to be something quite unique.


I looked at this miniature artwork on the internet on a daily basis. I coveted it greatly but just did not have the resources to buy it. I would estimate that I looked at it online at least once a day for quite some time and then – quelle horreur –  it disappeared.

As a collector do you ever realise (after the fact) that you feel more regret at having missed out on a new acquisition as it would have felt to spend the money you didn’t have? I have felt both types, but nothing is quite as bad as feeling regret once something slipped through one’s fingers. That is the double-edged sword of the internet. Being able to see an image of something daily, having it there seemingly available and accessible does encourage one to think that one has until  tomorrow, and tomorrow…..

So, when it disappears it can be quite confronting. Eeek – someone took my pendant!

A combination of sepia painting, macerated hair, pearls, watercolour & 3-d gold

Imagine my pleasant surprise when I saw the same pendant suddenly appear on the other side of the world courtesy of Ruby Lane! Immediate Wish List addition. I had learnt my lesson but to be honest, it still doesn’t solve the realism of not having the finances. But the original loss made me bolder, and when the dollar became a bit better, and with such generous things like lay-by (and living on rice) become options one can find a way.

A discipline which I try to adhere to (but often fail) is to refrain from purchasing things that I like at a moderate cost and save up for things that I love that are at a price requiring a bit more sacrifice.

What the land of  The Internet has provided to me, as a collector, is reach into a larger market. I have access to dealers in the UK, the US and the rest of the world which would have been unfathomable not that long ago.

The reverse with hair panel and inscription in French.

– Marielle Soni

Sentimental MiniatureThese remarkable miniatures also from the collection of Don Shelton (Artists and Ancestors – Miniature Portrait Art Collection) show an astounding variation in memorial and sentimental symbolism.

The piece by Johann Adamek (1776-1840), who was an Austrian miniaturist, has quite a lovely portrait on the front, but the memorial sentiment on the back is most unique.

Quite Continental in its style (typical of France, Germany and Austria), the memorial scene of the classical woman showing her right breast exposed, weeping in front of a burning pyre on top of a plinth, all set in front of a blue background.

Johann Adamek minature (front)

Johann Adamek minature (front)

One thing that should be noted is the more abstract nature of the European mourning setting which takes more cues from classical art and embellishes it with greater levels of artistic depth and individuality than its British counterpart.

This is not unique to this piece alone, but quite common of more Continental pieces of the neo-classical period, there was less of a ubiquitous standard and more of an abstract nature given to the portrayals of the mourning scene or sentiment. Please view other pieces within Art of Mourning to identify many different forms.

Johann Adamek minature (back)

Johann Adamek minature (back)

It should be noted that the bird in relation to a sentimental image is also important; if the bird is a dove, then it can be further detached from the subject and more inclined towards a neo-classical ideal of peace/hope/heaven, if the bird a sparrow then love (dedication, trust), if the bird is a swallow, there’s motherhood or children involved. There are many neo-classical images of the woman holding the bird with a man looking upon her or involved with her (hand upon shoulder or body) which allude to motherhood, futurity and the prospect of a child. Many of these bird subjects often come back to the nature of the child.

Sepia MiniatureIn classical art, it has been suggested that the bird in the cage was relevant to an ‘awakening’ of the subject, be it in a sexual manner or a path to adulthood, I believe that what the relation of the bird is upon the subject (depending on how it references the bird) can define it being death or a new life. Be aware, though, that the bird as the subject without the human element or any context for the bird (no cage), the bird becomes its own individual symbol and is often the anthropomorphic establishment of its subject or often an ecclesiastical ideal (though this takes us to the Protestant iconography vs Catholic symbolic differences).

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