MEDIEVAL PENDANTS, ROSARIES, AND POMANDERS

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The wearing of religious emblems in the form of pendants by the Christians of the Middle Ages was possibly, in the first place, the unconscious perpetuation of pagan superstition. The demand for a convenient mode of carrying a reliquary may account in some degree for the use of necklaces in early times.

Relics of the saints and of the Passion of our Lord were most eagerly sought after by medieval Christendom, and whenever a relic of unusual importance was obtained, all the resources of the art of the time were employed to give it a worthy setting.

The most famous of early pendent reliquaries was that worn by the Emperor Charlemagne, which contained relics from the Crown of Thorns and the True Cross, presented to him by Haroun al-Raschid. The reliquary was buried with him in 814, and found at the opening of his tomb at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1169.

In 1804 it was given to the Emperor Napoleon by the clergy of Aix, and was afterwards the property of Napoleon III, but it disappeared during the troubled times that terminated the Second Empire. The relics were enclosed under a large sapphire magnificently set in gold and precious stones.

Another historical relic of the early Middle Ages was the enameled gold cross suspended from a chain, which was stolen from the tomb of Edward the Confessor in Westminster Abbey in 1685 and given to James II.

It was only lost sight of in the early part of the nineteenth century. Portable reliquaries in former times were often made of two plates of rock crystal or other transparent stones hinged together so as to form a box. An exquisite example of this style of ornament, and one of the most remarkable medieval jewels, is the so-called reliquary of St. Louis in the British Museum.

It is of gold, set with two large bean-shaped amethysts which act as covers to an inner case with a lid, enclosing what purports to be a spike from the Crown of Thorns. The back of this receptacle, as well as the insides of the covers, is enriched with minute translucent enamels representing the Crucifixion and other scenes from the Passion and the life of Christ.

The jewel is said to have been given by St. Louis (who bought the Crown of Thorns from Baldwin, King of Jerusalem) to a king of Aragon, but the style of the work is somewhat later than the time of St. Louis, and dates from about the year 1310. It was formerly in the collection of Baron Pichon, and was presented to the British Museum by Mr. George Salting in 1902.

The pendent ornaments of the Middle Ages not only served as receptacles for relics, but also took the form of crosses, medallions, votive tablets, and monograms. Though these do not attain the same importance as the pendants of the Renaissance, their extraordinary variety is proved by the inventories of the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, while their beauty is attested by the few examples that have fortunately been preserved.

Small votive tablets, with hinged wings, were exceedingly popular as personal ornaments, judging by their frequent occurrence in the inventories under the title of tableau. They were suspended from the girdle or neck-chain. Some are painted with delicate translucent enamels, others, contain figures in high relief wrought in metal, or carvings in boxwood of minute dimensions. The last are generally Flemish, while the others, of which there are several splendid examples in the Victoria and Albert Museum, are mostly of French or of English workmanship.

A very remarkable silver-gilt pendant in the form of the Devil of temptation, with the forbidden fruit in one hand and a crozier, signifying power, in the other. It is Burgundian work of the second half of the fifteenth century, and is the property of Mrs. Percy Macquoid.

An interesting class of pendants is formed by a somewhat extensive series of silver and silver-gilt ornaments produced by German craftsmen of the fifteenth century. The National Museum at Munich, where several fine examples of this kind are preserved, possesses one of more than ordinary interest. It is of silver-gilt, about five inches in length, composed of elaborate Gothic tracery, in shape not unlike the tall Gothic tabernacles of South Germany, of which that by Adam Kraft in St. Lawrence’s Church’ at Nuremberg is perhaps the finest example.

A niche on each of its four sides contains the figure of a saint, and above, half hidden among the tracery, are four female figures. The jewel is surmounted by the Virgin and Child, and has three rings above for suspension and one below.

Other examples of South German goldsmith’s work of the fifteenth and early sixteenth century take the form of small pendent charms picturing some religious theme. The figure of a saint was naturally a favorite subject, since it was supposed to possess special prophylactic powers.

The variety of the subjects thus represented can be admirably judged from an important series of such pendants at South Kensington. In addition to these, which are mostly of cast silver, other pendants of the same period include silver plaques engraved, or in relief; and likewise fine cameos or reliefs of mother-of-pearl, and carvings in ivory and wood, set in coronets of silver-gilt.

Medieval neck-pendants were, as has been observed, known. In the inventory of Edward III in 1339 we find a pentacle composed of a large Scotch pearl and an image of Our Lady in enamel; and signified not only a necklace, but jewels hung at the neck.

Many pendants, generally provided with qua trefoil rings, come from South Germany and especially from Bohemia —there is a good collection of them in the cathedral treasury of Prague.” The majority are silver-gilt, and set with a plaque of mother-of-pearl or crystal, and are usually hollow, to contain relics.

Various pendants, containing small relics, verses from the Bible, the names of Christ or the Virgin written upon vellum or upon metal, and perhaps also ancient magic spells—all possessing the virtues of talismans, were worn by chains or cords round the neck, and in some instances very likely hidden under the upper garment.

The early Church, in many an edict, declared itself against this form of superstition, yet such pendants or phylacteries—a term applied to any amulet worn about the person against evil of all kinds —appear to have been extensively used.

Another and popular pendant from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, which is frequently cited in inventories, but now rarely met with, takes the form of a small circular box or capsule bearing in front an Agims Dei in niello or repouss6, surrounded by a corded edging. Such boxes were intended for the preservation of a roundel of wax molded from the remains of the Paschal candle at Rome with an impression of the sacred Lamb, and blessed by the Pope for distribution to the faithful. The cases, of silver-gilt, have occasionally a covering of transparent horn on the back and front.

An example of this kind, of fifteenth-century German workmanship, is in the Victoria and Albert Museum. The wax it contains bears the name of Pope Urban VI. An original stamp of bronze, of Italian origin, dating from the fourteenth century, which was used for making these wax impressions, is preserved in the British Museum along with other molds for casting medals and small articles of jewelry.

In addition to the precious and semi-precious stones already mentioned, other objects, accounted specially efficacious for certain purposes, were worn. The peres de eagle, also called cetites, supposed to be found in the nest of the eagle, were particularly valuable during childbirth. Glossopetrcu, the fossilised teeth of certain kinds of shark, which passed as serpents’ teeth, were much used, as well as primitive arrowheads. They were hung round the neck of infants in the belief that they assisted dentition and kept off frights.

Of great value also was the bezoar stone, which, like glossopetrse, at one time occupied a prominent place in pharmacopoeia. Coral, which has always been popular, is first mentioned in English wills and inventories in the fourteenth century. It was used for rosaries, and, above all, as a charm—a ring of gold or silver being attached to its stalk.

The Romans tied little branches of it round their children’ necks to ward off the evil eye; and the infant Savior in many an early Italian picture is represented wearing a piece of coral in a similar manner.

A fear of poison, common for centuries in royal courts, was responsible for the custom of testing meats and drinks by methods founded upon certain ancient and groundless beliefs. In order to neutralize or detect the presence of poison, certain objects were placed in contact with food or were dipped into liquids.

The touching-pieces or proofs employed for the purpose, and considered especially efficacious against poison, were toadstones, glossopetr, serpentine, jasper, agate, and particularly the unicorn’s horn. What was foisted upon the credulous public as the horn of the fabled animal was in reality the horn or tusk of a fish—the narwhal or sea-unicorn of the northern seas.

Being an object of very great value, the horn was only occasionally kept entire, like the one preserved to this day at New College, Oxford. It was more usually cut into pieces and used as “proofs.” An angry unicorn in his full career Charge with too swift foot a jeweler That watched him for the treasure of his brow, And ere he could get shelter of a tree, Nail him with his rich antler to the earth.- These and other objects, when worn upon the person, as was generally the practice, were mounted at one end, or surrounded by a claw-like band of silver. A relic of this superstition still exists in the coral baubles hung with bells, with which infants are aided in cutting their teeth.

Another object which occupied an important position in the Middle Ages and often received special attention at the hands of the goldsmith was the rosary. It was suspended occasionally from the neck, but was more often worn upon the wrist, at the girdle, or attached to a finger ring, and was formed of a string of beads of various sizes and materials representing Aves, Paternosters, and Glorias: each bead receiving the name of the prayer it represented.

The rosary, as at the present day, was divided into decades of Aves, each decade being preceded by a Paternoster and followed by a Gloria. The materials of which they were composed are well illustrated in the inventory of the jewels belonging to Adam Ledyard, a London jeweler in 1381. It includes: ” The makers of these beads were termed pater-nosterers; and Paternoster Row and Ave Maria Lane were so called from the ” turners of beads “who resided there.

In Paris, as early as the thirteenth century, the commerce in rosaries was a most flourishing one, and it was customary there to divide the makers or dealers in these articles into three categories—pater-nosterers of bone and horn, of coral and mother-of-pearl, and of amber and jet.

In England the rosary makers do not seem to have been so specialized. The larger beads were sometimes of gold, silver, and silver-gilt, of openwork, beautifully chased and engraved, and of boxwood and ivory exquisitely carved . The ornaments or trinkets attached to the rosary, were commonly in the form of a crucifix, while the small German charms were mostly employed for the same purpose.

Of the spherical-shaped gauds or nuts pendent to the rosary, called in French grains de chapelet and known in Germany as Betuusse, many fine examples exist in boxwood. They have often an openwork case which opens with a hinge, and displays two hemispheres filled with a number of carved figures of minute proportions. Among the many forms assumed by medieval pendants were those of fruits—generally apples or pears.

These fruit-shaped pendants, containing either figures or relics, were exceedingly popular. They were carried in the purse or attached to the rosary or to the girdle, or in the case of men, were hung from the neck by a cord or chain ; and were constructed so as to be opened during devotions. One of the most remarkable examples is in the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum.

The use of perfumes prevailed at all periods of the Middle Ages. They were enclosed in various receptacles, and especially in those shaped like a pear or apple. These pendent scent cases or pomanders, worn like other pendants of the same form, were in general use throughout the whole of the period extending from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century.

Pomander in early inventories is often indicating its derivation from ponmie d’ambre, a perfume apple or ball; the word ponime being used for any object resembling an apple in shape, and used for perfume. the well-known odoriferous substance, so called from its resemblance to gray amber. It was the most highly prized of all perfumes in medieval times, and though its use is now almost entirely confined to perfumery, it formerly also occupied no inconsiderable place in pharmacy.

Primarily the pomander seems often to have designated a ball composed of various highly scented substances, which served the purpose both of counteracting the smells which must have been particularly general and offensive in olden days, and also of protecting against infection. It was enclosed in a rich metal case, opening across the center, and perforated so as to allow the scent to escape. The title “pomander” —originally meaning simply a scent or perfume ball— was given to the case which contained it. In many instances, the perfumes, instead of being mixed together into a ball, were placed in the pomander case each in a separate compartment, the lids of which are found inscribed with the names of the contents. These compartments, varying in number from four to as many as sixteen, are formed like segments of an orange. They are hinged below, and united at the top by a screw or pin, which being removed, allows the segments to open out.

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Medieval England Jewelry: Earrings, Necklaces, Collars

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Though common in the Merovingian and Carlo-vingian epoch, earrings appear to have been worn only to a limited extent, and that at the commencement of the period at present under discussion. Pendants formed of quadrilateral prisms set on each side with cabochon garnets and hung with small strings of garnet beads are attached to the ears of the tenth-century figure of St. Foy in the treasury at Conques, though it is not impossible that these, like many of the gems that adorn the statue, may be of earlier workmanship.

That the Byzantine style of earring, of crescent form, was worn during the eleventh and twelfth centuries is evident from a twelfth-century bronze ewer, in the shape of a head of a woman, of Flemish work, in the Museum of Budapest.

Earrings, however, enjoyed no great popularity during the Middle Ages, and the cause of this must be traced to the fashion which prescribed for women a style of coiffure by which the hair fell down at the sides, or was covered by a veil. There is a reproduction of this remarkable specimen of Dinanderie in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

MEDIEVAL NECKLACES would have effectively hidden any ornaments for the ear. It was only at the end of the fourteenth century that fashion again allowed the hair to be worn high. Pendent rings of gold for ladies’ ears are mentioned in the Roman de la Rose, and statues occasionally exhibit short earrings, pearls attached to the lobe of the ear, or stones in the form of drops. Earrings, indeed, did not come into very common use until the close of the fifteenth or the beginning of the sixteenth century.

NECKLACES AND COLLARS: The custom of wearing necklaces and neck-chains was much more limited during the Middle Ages than it had been in antiquity and at the time of the great migrations. Women’s necklaces can hardly be proved to have been in general use before the end of the fourteenth century, and during the Middle Ages seldom attained the exaggerated style they exhibited at the period of the Renaissance.

They consisted mostly of plaited cords of gold wire, and probably of single or double chains of pearls. These originally encircled the throat, but at a later date were worn more upon the breast. Though many forms of personal ornament are mentioned in early wills and inventories, we rarely meet with a reference to the necklace until the fourteenth century, nor is it pictured on monumental effigies or brasses until the beginning of the century following.

If worn at all prior to this date, it must simply have served the purpose of supporting pendants of various forms known as pentacols. These neck-chains, or collars as they were termed, soon began to receive additional enrichment, and the inventories of the fifteenth century contain frequent descriptions of neck-lets adorned with enamels and precious stones.

Eleanor, Countess of Arundel bequeathed to her daughter “a golden collar for the neck, with a jewel set with precious stones hanging thereat.” The fashion for rich necklaces was especially in vogue at the luxurious Court of the Dukes of Burgundy; nor had the Court of Richard II been behindhand in the display of this species of ornament, for the magnificent wedding presents of his wife, Isabella of France, included a collar of gold set with precious stones of immense value.

The word carcanet seems to have come into use about this time for rich necklaces of precious stones, and to have been applied a little later to the bands of jewels commonly entwined in ladies’ hair. Though never so generally worn as in the sixteenth century, a considerable number of these jeweled ornaments are represented in the exquisite paintings of the fifteenth century.

One of the most elaborate of all is the superb gold neck-let, brilliantly enameled with small and many-colored flowers, shown on the portrait of Maria, wife of Pierantonio Baroncelli, in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence, by an unknown Flemish painter of the latter part of the fifteenth century.

Close by, in the same gallery, is Van der Goes’ celebrated triptych, presented to the Spedale di Santa Maria Nuova by Tommaso Portinari, agent of the Medici in Bruges. Upon the right wing is Maria, wife of the donor, with her daughter. The former wears a magnificent necklace of exquisite design, its interlacing gold work shaped into the form of roses, enameled red, white, and blue, each set respectively with a sapphire, a ruby, and a large pearl.

The latter is adorned with a necklace composed of a double row of pearls connected by oval jeweled ornaments, beneath is hung a trefoil-shaped pendant set with rubies, to which is attached a large drop-pearl. A precisely similar ornament is seen in another work by Van der Goes, painted about 1473—the well-known portrait of Margaret, queen of James III of Scotland, now at Holy rood.

This picture was probably executed in Flanders from material supplied by the donor, and the artist appears to have adorned Queen Margaret with the same beautiful necklace, probably of Florentine workmanship, which he had seen round the neck of Signorina Portinari. Jane Shore, the beautiful and unfortunate mistress of Edward IV, and wife of the rich jeweler of Lombard Street, is represented in her two portraits, one at King’s College, Cambridge, and the other at Eton, wearing elaborate necklaces.

Around her throat are two strings of pearls, with a neck-let below of circular pieces of Gothic pattern, supporting a lozenge-shaped pendant of similar design adorned with pearls. Among sculptured representations of the neck-let the most interesting is that on the monument of Sir John Crosby (d. 1475) and his wife in St. Helen’s Church, Bishopsgate, where the latter wears a very handsome necklace of roses, to which is attached a cluster of three roses with three pendants below.

Sir John’s collar is somewhat similarly formed of rosette-shaped ornaments. An early instance of a heavy neck-chain of gold, worn upon the breast, is to be seen upon the famous tapestry, considered to represent Henry VI and his Queen, in St. Mary’s Hall, Coventry.

Collars of extraordinary richness seem to have been worn by Henry IV ; for among the miscellaneous documents preserved at St. Paul’s Cathedra is a list of various jewels set with diamonds both large and small, with balas rubies, sapphires, and clusters of pearls, which were to be employed for making collars for the king and queen.

The Inventories of the Exchequer contain frequent reference to what is termed the Iklyngton Coler. This magnificent collar, which Shaw was frequently pawned by Henry VI, was enriched with four rubies, four large sapphires, thirty-two great pearls, and fifty-three pearls of a lesser sort.’ In addition to the purelyornamental necklaces, collars or chains of ” livery “—bearing the heraldic devices of the day—were assumed by various royal and noble families, and were bestowed as marks of favor or friendship on persons of various ranks, and both sexes, who wore them as badges of adherence to those families.

An instance of the bestowal of a chain of this kind occurred in 1477 after the siege of Quesnoy by Louis XI, who, witnessing a great feat of gallantry on the part of Raoul de Lannoy, is reported to have placed on his neck a chain of great value, and to have thus wittily addressed him: ” Mon ami, vous etes trop furieux en un combat; il faut vous encJiainer, car je ne veux point vous perdre, ddsirant me servir encore de vous plusieurs fois.”

Richard II, as shown by the Earl of Pembroke’s remarkable picture of that monarch at Wilton, wore, in addition to his device the white hart, a collar of broom-pods. Henry IV employed the well-known collar of SS, derived from his father John of Gaunt.

The collar of Edward IV was composed of two of his badges, the sun in its splendor, and the white rose; while a third, the white lion of March, was added as a pendant. Richard III retained the Yorkist collar, substituting for the lion pendant a boar.”

Private family collars were also worn, and an early instance of one occurs in the brass of Thomas Lord Berkeley (1417) in the church of Wootton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire; the band round the neck being charged with mermaids, the badge of the Berkeleys.

The SS collar is the best known of all. It is composed of the letter S in gold repeated indefinitely, either fixed on velvet or some material, or forming the links of a chain. The letters are generally united by knots ; they sometimes terminate with portcullises and have a pendent rose. The collar was worn by the Lord Chief Justice, the Lord Mayor of London, and the chief heralds—that belonging to the Lord Mayor being an original and beautiful example of English jewelry of the sixteenth century.

Despite all that has been written upon the SS collar no conclusive explanation has been offered as to its origin and meaning. Several representations of livery collars appear upon monumental effigies of the latter half of the fifteenth century, and there is frequent mention of them in the inventories of the same period, but, with the exception of the SS collar, they are not met with at all in the sixteenth century.

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Pilgrim’s Signs

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Pilgrim Signs of St. Thomas of Canterbury, whose signs, according to a statement of Giraldus Cambrensis, were worn as early as the twelfth century. The anonymous author of the supplement to Chaucer’s Canterbiiry Tales speaks of the purchase of signs by Chaucer’s party on the occasion of their pilgrimage to Canterbury, and remarks that on their departure from the Cathedral “they set their signs upon their heads, and some upon their cap.”

And Erasmus, in his Colloquy of the pilgrimage for religious sake, notes that pilgrims were “covered on every side with images of tin and lead.” Judging from the number and variety of the badges relating to the murdered archbishop, Becket, his shrine must have enjoyed a widespread popularity, though the scallop-shell of St. James of Compostella was perhaps more universally recognized as a pilgrim’s sign than any other.

These signs were worn not only on a pilgrimage, but also formed a customary decoration for the hat. Some, even in early times, perhaps as early as the thirteenth century, though partaking of a religious character, do not seem to have had reference to any particular shrine, and referred simply to incidents in popular religious legends.

Others were merely symbols or emblems, yet, like the majority of medieval trinkets, they nearly all displayed religious motives and were supposed to possess talismanic powers.

Louis XI, the cruel and superstitious King of France, commonly wore such signs, particularly those of the celebrated Notre-Dame d’Embrun, stuck round his hat; and on a visit to Henry, King of Castile, he wore, so Philip de Comines informs us, a very old hat with leaden images upon it. It is very evident that we have here the origin of the hat-ornaments or ensigns of gold and silver, and enriched with precious stones and enamels, which, coming first into use in the fifteenth century, became extremely popular in the sixteenth, and were worn on almost every man’s hat, and sometimes on those of women, until the middle of the seventeenth century.

Like those obtained at the shrines, they bore at first the figure of a saint—generally a patron —or a figure of the Virgin. Of signs such as these, some came to represent the actual badge of the wearer or of some one to whom he was affectionately attached, while others took the form of badges of livery, and were worn in the hats of the retainers of great families.

Philip de Comines records that Lord Bourchier, Governor of Calais, 1470, wore a ragged staff of gold upon his bonnet. This was the badge of the Earl of Warwick, and all his attendants had ragged staves likewise. A leaden ensign of a bear and ragged staff (the House of Warwick), a crowned ostrich feather (Duke of Norfolk), a hound (Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury), and a dolphin (badge of the Dauphin—afterwards Louis XI—and his faction, the Armagnacs), together with others of a similar nature, are in the British Museum.

The badges of the Kings of England were employed in the same manner: and among the British Museum collection is a hart lodged—the badge of Richard II, and in the Guildhall a broom-pod of the Plantagenets, and a crown of fleurs-de-lis—the badge of Henry V.

A considerable number of small shield-shaped bronze and copper pendants, enameled with coats of arms, and having a ring above for suspension, seem also to have served as badges. There is the possibility that some were worn by the servants of nobility as ensigns upon the hat, or perhaps on the left arm or breast. But the majority appear to have been employed for the decoration of horse-harness.’ Medieval hat-badges of gold are of extreme rarity.

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MEDIEVAL HEAD-ORNAMENTS AND NECKLACES

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Medieval head ornaments and necklaces from the tenth to the sixteenth century belong for the most part rather to the general history of costume than to that of jewelry only, and it will be unnecessary to follow those extravagances of fashion which, especially during the fifteenth century, were presented by the head-dress of women.

More germane to the subject are the fillets, bands, and chaplets worn throughout the Middle Ages by women when their heads were uncovered, and during a more limited period by men also. The original form of these was a ribbon, which encircled the brow, held back the hair from the face, and adjusted the veil, while wreaths, either of natural flowers or of plain gold, were a frequent decoration for young women.

Hence the bands or chaplets, which took their motives from those more simple ornaments, were made either wholly of metal, or of gold flowers sewn upon an embroidered band, both forms being enriched with pearls and precious stones.

The fillet later on became a heavy band composed of separate pieces of metal joined by hinges, and showed a close resemblance to the broad belts of the knights. The wearing of such head-ornaments was not confined exclusively to the nobility, for the receipt of a sale of jewels by Agnes Chalke, spicer of London, to a certain John of Cambridge in 1363, includes a ” coronal of gold, wrought with stones, that is to say, with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, and pearls.”‘ Exquisite circlets set with these gems are worn by the choir of singing and music-making angels on the wings of the Van Eycks’ famous “Ghent Altar-piece” in the Berlin Museum.

The fillet, whether a complete circle or hinged, received about the fourteenth century additional enrichment in the form of trefoils, fleurs-de-lis, crosses, and foliations, erected on cuspings upon its upper edge.

A simple but charming example of a circlet, dating from the fourteenth century, is preserved in the Musee du Cinquantenaire at Brussels. It is of silver gilt, formed of hinged plaques, each mounted with from three to four collets set with pearls, and with pastes in imitation of precious stones, while additional ornaments in the form of fleurs-de-lis are fixed erect upon it.

From the diadem of this character originated the coronets worn by those of high or noble rank; the use of these, amid the ceremonies of later courts, crystallized into a system of class privilege. Such diadems or coronets approach the form of the regal crown, which in England, as early as the eleventh century, was enriched with rays and floriations.

The regal crown, with which we are not immediately concerned,” by the addition of arches, was converted about the fifteenth century into what is technically known as the “close” crown.

Round the helmets of knights in the fifteenth century ornamental wreaths called orles were worn: these, originally composed of two bands of silk twisted. No attempt will here be made to enumerate the various forms of crowns and coronets.

MEDIEVAL HEAD-DRESSES together, were afterwards richly jeweled. One of the most famous of jeweled hats was that of Charles the Bold, thickly encrusted with huge pearls and precious stones, which was captured by the Swiss after his death at the battle of Nancy in 1477.

Of female ornaments of the same period it need only be stated that the elaborate head-dresses, such as the cornette, escoffion, and Jicnin —it is sometimes difficult to imagine how women had sufficient strength to keep them balanced on their heads—were profusely adorned with pearls, gold spangles, and precious stones, and in some cases with crowns or crown-shaped combs of elaborate gold work enriched with gems.

The Italians, with more refined taste seem to have escaped from such extravagances sooner than the rest of Europe, and to have been content for the most part with a simple bandemt encircling the forehead. Among the most interesting varieties of personal ornaments in the Middle Ages are certain jewels or brooches worn in the hat, and known as enseignes.

From the lead signs or ornaments worn by pilgrims there was gradually evolved a special class of jewels on which the great artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries exercised their utmost skill, and which at the present day are among the most highly prized of all early articles of personal jewelry.

Rivers near large cities have supplied us with much of the knowledge we possess of the manners and habits of those who in former times dwelt upon their banks. Whenever dredging or digging disturbs the beds of such rivers, objects of antiquity, which seem to have gravitated there, are sure to be discovered.

The municipal museum of many a city of ancient foundation preserves choice works of antiquity recovered from its river’s bed. Among the most remarkable objects brought to light in this manner are certain curious medieval ornaments, which belong to the age that has bequeathed exceedingly few examples of articles for personal use.

The ornaments referred to are the small badges or signs of lead, given or sold, as tokens, to medieval pilgrims to the shrines of saints or martyrs, and known as “Pilgrims’ Signs.” They were obtained from the attendants at shrines and exhibitions of relics, who kept ready a large variety bearing the effigy or device of some particular saint, or the symbol that had reference to his acts of worship. Each sign or token was pierced with holes, or more frequently had a pin cast in one piece with it, making it available as a brooch.

It was thus fastened to the hat or other portion of the pilgrim’s dress as a testimony of his having visited the particular shrine indicated by the token. These badges, which date from about the thirteenth to the fifteenth century, were manufactured at the churches or monasteries to which pilgrimages were made.

Molds for casting them are preserved in the British Museum and the Guildhall Museum; and a forge was found at Walsingham Priory where the sacristan melted the metals employed for their manufacture. It will be outside the present purpose to enumerate all the varieties of form assumed by these interesting and historically most valuable objects. Important collections of them are preserved in the British Museum and Guildhall Museum in London, and in the Musde Cluny, Paris.

In England the most popular relics were those of Our Lady of Walsingham Priory, and particularly Several writers on Pilgrims’ Signs state that a furnace destined for the same purpose may still be seen in an upper chamber in Canterbury Cathedral.

Inquiry on the spot has failed to confirm the truth of this statement. The furnace in question has been used solely for the purpose of casting lead work for repairing the roof. The badges were probably made somewhere in the Cathedral precincts.
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Medieval England Jewelry Part 3: The New College Jewels

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THE NEW COLLEGE JEWELS are still preserved in the College. Among the jeweled fragments are hinged bands of silver gilt, formed of plates of basse-taille enamel representing animals and grotesques, which alternate with settings of dark blue pastes and white crystals surrounded by radiating pearls.

These bands probably went round the lower part of the mitre, and also perhaps ran up the middle of it, before and behind. The crests of the mitre were edged with strips of exquisitely chased crocheting in gold. The other fragments include two rosettes of beautifully executed Gothic foliation set with white crystals, together with two qua-trefoils in silver gilt and a cruciform gold ornament set with turquoises.

The chief treasure of the New College collection is an exquisite gold jewel, a monogram of the Blessed Virgin, the patron saint of the ” College of St. Mary of Winston in Oxford.” It is a crowned Lombardic M and might be the rich capital of some medieval manuscript, with its gorgeous coloring faithfully translated into gold, enamel, pearls, and precious stones.

In the open parts of the letter are figures of the Virgin and the Angel of the Annunciation in full relief, the angel’s wings being covered with enamel of translucent green. The space above the head of each figure is occupied with delicate architectural work of open cuspings. In the center of the jewel is a large ruby in the form of a vase, from which spring three lilies with white enameled blossoms. On each side of the vase are three small emeralds.

Remarkable taste is shown in the arrangement of the precious stones: fine emeralds and rubies, en cabochon, mounted alternately in raised settings round the jewel. Two stones, a ruby on the left and an emerald on the right, are missing.

The rest of the mountings are Oriental pearls somewhat discolored by age. It is generally considered that the jewel adorned and occupied a central place on the mitre, and its dimension (2 by 2 inches) render its employment in that position probable. As, however, there are no indications of such an ornament on contemporary representations of mitres, and above all on the mitre figured on the founder’s own tomb at Winchester, there remains the possibility of the jewel having been employed as a brooch or nouche on some other part of the vestment.

This remarkable jewel stands quite alone in point of excellence. It goes far to justify the contention that English jewelers at this period, as well as in Saxon times, equaled, if they did not outstrip, the craftsmen of other nations in the successful cultivation of the goldsmith’s art.

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Medieval England Jewelry Part 2: Fifteenth Century England Jewelry

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Of the objects selected for the purpose are preserved in the inventories of the Exchequer, and among the city archives. In spite of attempted restrictions, and notwithstanding the disastrous Wars of the Roses, immense demands appear to have been made upon the productive powers of the jewelers throughout the whole of the fifteenth century.

The remarkable list of Henry IV’s jewels in the inventories of the Exchequer, and the most important of royal English inventories of the Middle Ages, that taken after the death of Henry V in 1422 serve to show that until the end of the century, which may serve as the termination of the period, extraordinary extravagance in the style and nature of ornaments as well as of costume was the order of the day.

Every one who had acquired wealth, or even a modest competence only, displayed a magnificence far beyond his means. It was a time when wealth was required in a compact and tangible form. Owners did not hesitate to melt down their jewels when desirous of employing them for other purposes.

The change of taste which shortly came about tended towards similar destruction while the Wars of the Roses involved the breaking up of much that was most sumptuous in material and beautiful in workmanship.

Throughout the whole of the Christian Middle Ages the highest efforts of the goldsmith were directed to the enrichment of the Church and the adornment of its ministers, and the magnificence which the ritual of the Church fostered found expression in the jeweled ornaments of ecclesiastic vestments.

In Norman times ecclesiastical jewelry was extremely luxurious and costly, and the illuminations of the period show the cope and chasuble richly bordered with precious stones. St. Thomas a Becket wore an extraordinary profusion of jewels, and descriptions are preserved of the magnificence of his own person and of his attendants during a progress he once made through the streets of Paris.

Innocent III, memorable in this country as the Pope to whom the pusillanimous John surrendered his crown, is recorded to have commented on the richness of the costumes and ornaments of the English clergy, with a hint at the possibility of extracting further sums for the increase of the papal revenue.

The early inventories all record the splendor of the vestments used in public worship, and show how pearls, precious stones, and even ancient cameos, all rendered more beautiful by exquisite settings, were employed for their enrichment. No bishop, indeed, was suitably equipped without a precious miter with delicate goldsmith’s work and inlaid gems, without a splendid Morse or brooch to fasten his cope, and without a ring, set with an antique gem or a stone en cabochon, to wear over his embroidered glove.

Of all these rich ornaments scarcely any examples have survived save a number of rings recovered from the graves of ecclesiastics. All the more precious, therefore, are the jeweled ornaments bequeathed in 1404 by William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, to New College, Oxford, where they are still preserved as relics of its munificent founder.

These unique examples of medieval jewelry date from the closing years of the fourteenth century—the period of transition from Decorated to Perpendicular architecture: a time when Gothic art had reached its climax ; and not only the architect, but the painter and the goldsmith were still devoting their utmost efforts on behalf of the Church, the center of the whole medieval system.

The New College jewels originally decorated William of Wykeham’s precious mitre. Portions of the groundwork of the mitre sewn with seed pearls, and its original case of cuir bottilli or boiled leather, stamped with fleurs-de-lis and bound with iron straps.

Continued in Part 3

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Medieval England Jewelry Part 1

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FEW brooches and finger rings are almost the only surviving examples of English jewelry of the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries. Yet there is evidence from existing records of an abundance of the most beautiful objects as accumulated in the ecclesiastical treasuries, and the great shrines, like that of St. Thomas of Canterbury, or of Our Lady of Wal-singham Priory, which not even the Santa Casa at Loreto, or the shrine of St. James at Compostella, could surpass in renown, or equal in the reception of rich and costly gifts.

Vast quantities of jeweled objects, which must have been in great part native productions, have also been tabulated in the inventories of our monarchs, princes, guilds, and corporations. Judging from extant examples of English painted glass, sculpture, and particularly embroidery, some estimate can be formed of the high quality of the goldsmiths’ work, which was scarcely excelled in the Middle Ages by that of any other country in Europe.

The English goldsmiths, in fact, after the Norman Conquest seem to have lost none of the skill which is displayed on their earlier productions. A love of finery seems to have characterized the Court of William the Conqueror and his successors.

The jewelry of the ladies became exceedingly extravagant, and is bitterly inveighed against by the religious De Mely and Bishop satirists.

Neckam, an Anglo-Latin poet, towards the close of the twelfth century, accuses them of covering themselves with gold and gems and of perforating their ears in order to hang them with jewels.

Henry I had the tastes of a collector. That he collected gems is known from a letter written by a prior of Worcester to Edmer, Anselm’s biographer, in which he suggests that for money Henry might be persuaded to part with some pearls.

King John was greatly attached to his jewels, and their loss in the Wash is commonly supposed to have hastened his death. The record is preserved concerning the loss on an earlier occasion of certain of his precious stones “which we all want to wear round our neck.” The stones must have been credited with miraculous powers, for their finder was very liberally rewarded.

Henry HI, one of the most indigent of monarchs, made such extravagant presents of jewelry to his wife, that he was afterwards obliged to pawn not only his regalia, but a considerable portion of the jewels and precious stones accumulated at the shrine of Edward the Confessor at Westminster Abbey.

Dating first from about this period are a number of inventories of personal ornaments, and it is by a perusal of the inventories of the most wealthy, and particularly those of sovereign princes, that an estimate can be obtained of the nature of every type of ornament in use at the period, in its most elaborate form.

Among the earliest and most important royal inventories that have been published are those preserved in the Wardrobe Account of Edward I, for the year 1299. The jewels include a large number of morses or clasps given by the king to bishops, and restored after their deaths.

ENGLAND, FOURTEENTH CENTURY objects offered by the king or queen to various shrines ; while among other jewels are brooches, many rings, a pendant, belt, and bracelet.

About this time masses of precious stones, the spoils of the Crusades, began to find their way into this country, and to be employed for ” embroidering” or sewing upon the garments. Edward II and his extravagant favorites, such as the worthless Piers Gaveston, loaded themselves with precious stones.

Lists of jewels belonging to Gaveston on his attainder in 1313, and to the king in 1324, show the magnificence of their ornaments, and the vast sums at which they were valued. The king’s jewels, described in considerable detail, are inventoried under the following headings: {a) Stones and other objects, (b) Crowns of gold and silver, including cercles and chapelets, (c) Brooches of gold, (d) Rings of gold, [f) Girdles and diadems.

From this time onward there is an increase of such documents and of wills, and also of sumptuary laws specially connected with personal ornaments. The brilliant reign of Edward IIP was favorable to the full display of jewelry.

New luxuries were imported in great abundance, and there was hardly a lady of position who had not in her possession some portion of the spoils of plate and jewels from cities beyond the sea; while those who, like the Knight of Chaucer, had been at Alexandria ” when it was won,” returned with cloth of gold, velvet, and precious stones.

In the thirty-seventh year of this reign (1363) the Parliament held at Westminster enacted several sumptuary laws against the extravagant use of personal adornment. These state what costume is suited to the various degrees of rank and income, and are of value for the information they supply on the prevailing fashions in jewelry.

Restrictions of this kind, re-enacted from time to time, and apparently of little effect, seem to have been intended not so much to prevent the gratification of an instinctive desire for bravery and splendor, as to make different classes proclaim their rank and station by their dress.

Chaucer in the Prologue of his Canterbury Tales affords in a charming manner additional information about the personal ornaments of the different grades of English society of his time. He gives detailed description of the brooch of the yeoman and the nun, and pictures the merchant with his richly clasped shoes, the squire with short knife and purse at his girdle, the carpenter’s wife with her collar fastened by a brooch as ” broad as the boss of a buckler,” and various tradesmen who, in spite of sumptuary laws, wore pouches, girdles, and knives of silver. Her knives were caped not with bras But all with silver. Her girdles and her pouches as well.

The passion for personal ornaments, or ” bravouries ” as they were termed, reached its zenith in England during the reign of the elegant and unfortunate Richard II, whose courtiers out vied one another in such extravagances.

An anonymous writer of the period quoted by Camden in his Remains concerning Britain speaks of hoods, even those worn by men of moderate means, as commonly set with gold and precious stones, while ” their girdles are of gold and silver, some of them worth twenty marks.” The king, in constant want of money, was obliged on several occasions to deposit the royal jewels with the Corporation of London as security for loans.

Continued in Part 2

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