Condition isn’t an issue with me when I see something that has obvious beauty and quality. If I were collecting for money, then I would be concerned (a wise collector once told me never to buy anything with chipped enamel), but I’m here to teach, educate and curate. This one has broken glass at the back, but I don’t think you’ll complain once you see the sepia front with willow and urn.

To see more on this particular style, I’ll point you in the direction of this article.

Update: There’s some good discussion going on at the Art of Mourning Facebook Group – join in if you’re not a member and bring your friends!

Urn Brooch with Damage / c.1810

Urn Brooch with Damage / c.1810

Urn Brooch with Damage / c.1810

This lovely Navette beauty found its home in 1811, but was quite probably constructed earlier. It’s a wonderful piece that makes one consider just how many interpretations of the urn/willow combination there were.

Further Reading:
> Symbolism Sunday, The Urn
> Symbolism Sunday, The Willow

Willow and Urn Pin 1811

Willow and Urn Pin 1811

Urn Willow Onyx Mourning Ring

If you know me well enough, you may think this is hypocritical, but sometimes I often buy jewellery to wear. Yes, as a person who is based in conservation and education, I love my urn/mourning motifs and this one grabbed me. I was in London looking down upon a cabinet of jewellery and it just spoke to my heart. As you can see, there are no dedications on it, which make it safe for me to wear and not feel that I’m harming the memory of a person.

Urn Willow Onyx Mourning Ring

Urn Willow Onyx Mourning RingWant to read a bit more on the use of the willow in jewellery symbolism? Then why not click over here for more!

Symbolism Sunday, The Willow

September 19, 2010

Oh no! Another Sunday! Well, fear not, this one is really easy.

My friends, if you’ve never seen a weeping willow on a mourning piece, then you may want to start another hobby.

The weeping willow is heavily symbolic of grief, sorrow and mourning, even physically, it stands as an analogy to human grief, with its back bent over the subject, be it a weeping figure, a tomb, plinth or any other mourning subject.

One of the better descriptions of the weeping willow comes from 2020site.org and this marvellous excerpt:

“Though the Weeping Willow is commonly planted in burial grounds both in China and in Turkey, its tearful symbolism has been mainly recognized in modern times, and among Christian peoples. As has been well said: “The Cypress was long considered as the appropriate ornament of the cemetery; but its gloomy shade among the tombs, and its thick, heavy foliage of the darkest green, inspire only depressing thoughts, and present death under its most appalling image, whilst the Weeping Willow, on the contrary, rather conveys a picture of the grief felt for the loss of the departed than of the darkness of the grave. Its light and elegant foliage flows like the disheveled hair and graceful drapery of a sculptured mourner over a sepulchral urn, and conveys those soothing, though melancholy reflections…”

So, where can one find this in jewellery? Quite commonly, it became one of the most used symbols of the Neoclassical period, so look for it on miniatures set into bracelets, pendants, etc and to a lesser extent was used in the 19th century. It can still be found in cemeteries and on peripheral funeralia today.

Examples of the willow in jewellery:

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777

Spotlight On: 1788 Sarah Honlett Brooch

Spotlight On: Mourning Miniature

As a treat for those of you who watched The Collectors on Friday night (and as a thank you to the international readers who couldn’t), we’ve got a long week ahead, as Art of Mourning is going back to daily posts for the week and I’ll be discussing some very unusual and beautiful pieces.

Had enough? Ok, you’re free to go enjoy your day!

Sepia Ring

A prime example of Neoclassicism and white enamel

If you know me, you know I like my white enamel pieces, often because of their immediate sentimentality and their ability to speak volumes without even the use of a standard memorial motif.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777

With the one colour, the life of a person is represented; virginal, pure, often young and innocent. Black has its obvious connotations, but there’s something infinitely touching about the white enamel, as death is a certainty any way you look at it.

Which brings me to this wonderful example of a sepia ring with the white enamel. Let’s have a look at some of the obvious features.

Firstly, there is the white enamel, I’ve written about this subject quite a bit, but at first glance, we can see that the person (in this case, Sarah Jervis) was unmarried. She died at the age of 24, which was no young age for its time, so there the fact that the ring was constructed opens up the possibility for a decidedly well-off, larger sized family. Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777An assumption would be that the ring was commissioned by a member of her family, as there is no personal dedication of the ring to a specific person (often inscribed underneath the bezel), but the ring has been polished quite a bit and such dedication may have been lost (if it was ever there). I would lean towards this not having been there, as several rings for Sarah would quite possibly have been constructed, this is conjecture, however.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777Next we have the year of construction, which would be around 1777. Combined with the white enamel and the connection of the shank to the bezel, we have a lovely look at the evolving style of jewellery from the mid 18th century.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777

The curve to the inner shank borrows from the earlier Rococo bands, popular in the 1740s to the 1760s. Its clear connection to the bezel shows no tampering, so it’s in quite honest, solid shape.

Then there is the sepia on top. Painted on ivory and set under convex crystal, this depicts a well defined urn underneath the willow tree. Standard motifs for death and sorrow for a loved one, but this is quite delicately painted.

Sarah Jervis White Enamel and Sepia Mourning Ring, 1777Overall, this ring is quite typical for its time, this oval/band combination running parallel to the navette shape. The white enamel makes it particularly special and I would like to thank the ring’s owner, Jim Williams, for opening it up for discussion!

Courtesy: Jim Williams
Dedication: Sarah Jervis / OB: 25 July 1777

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