History of Jewelry Part 5: Baroque|
One of the reasons for the development of the incredibly luxurious Baroque styles of seventeenth century France was the conception of absolute monarchy as developed by Louis XIV. He made it the duty of the courts of France and Spain to wear their whole property in the form of gems upon their persons, to carry the value of their lands on their bodies and woven into the apparel of their wives anytime they appeared before his eyes. Gold garlands were molded into flowers and other designs all of which would cup huge rose cut or double rose cut stones. Sometimes these stones were backed with foil so as to produce attractive effects of lighting. Enameled jewelry was also often modeled after flowering plants. After 1640, it became popular to build up a surface with a paste of white enamel in the shape of a fruit or some other naturalistic design and then to paint it with colors according to nature.
Scientific discovery was increasingly a part of life in the seventeenth century. Galileo’s investigations of the planets enabled painters of the time to render the sky relatively accurately in their work. Also, Galileo’s support of Copernican heliocentrism finally encouraged the public to understand that the sun is the center of the universe. Such discoveries changed the tone and content of art, influencing the rise of landscape painting without human figures, for example. Increased geographical exploration and colonization also influenced the rise of portrayals of exotic locales. Despite its reticence to accept changing mores, the Catholic church employed realistic and emotional art as a means of propagating the faith and as a tool to combat the spread of Protestantism; Protestant art and architecture at the time was simple and severe. In jewelry, these factors influenced the accuracy and ebullience with which naturalistic forms were rendered. Ecstasies of religious fervor, individuals in the throws of life experiences, and infinite space – instead of contained environments – were portrayed with frequency in sculpture, painting, and in shallow relief on jewelry.
The beginning of the Baroque period saw simpler styles than the late period: first artistic efforts in the sixteenth century were reactions against the anticlassical Mannerism of the late Renaissance. Coincident with developing interest in scientific naturalism was this movement for strict, believable imagery, clarity, monumentality, and balance. By the middle of the seventeenth century, however, the high Baroque period had begun, which was characterized by absolute exuberance and theatricality, and it is that period which we associate with Baroque jewelry. Despite its extravagance, the Baroque style prized symmetry and balance. Contrasts are always evened out – light and dark, movement in tension with stillness. Decorative work of the period has energy, but is still restrained by classical rules.
One of the most popular ornaments in seventeenth century England was an aigrette. The aigrette was fixed to the hair on occasions of ceremony, and was generally formed of a bouquet of flowers on movable stalks, composed of clusters of precious stones in enameled gold, and was accompanied sometimes by a jeweled knot. Also popular were strings of pearls plaited through the hair.
In the early seventeenth century, French and English portraits show that earrings were mostly large pear-shaped pearls in each ear. In the second half of the century, Spanish portraits show much more elaborate earrings: openwork rosettes or bow-shaped ornaments set with colored stones and hung with movable pendants. Some such Spanish earrings hung so low they might be mistaken for neck ornaments.