It is with great pride that we offer this magnificent necklace here. A true museum piece that we are thrilled to have in our collection.
The continuous uniform fringe decorated with beads, wirework and florettes of this necklace is typical for the work of Eugène Fontenay. A demi-parure of very similar design is illustrated in French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century, Henri Vever, translated by Katherine Purcell, p. 643. and a similar necklace plus matching earrings were sold last year at Sotheby’s for $ 52,000!
The archaeological revival is the appellation for neo-styles of the 18th and 19th centuries that where inspired by discoveries in the excavations of Roman, Egyptian, Hellenistic and Etruscan sites. The first revival in the 18th century, which is called neoclassicism, came after excavations of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The second revival was inspired by finds in Etruscan burial sites (in Italy). In jewelry, this style is characterized by granulation and filigree decorations.
There is some discussion among experts on who rediscovered the granulation technique. To some it was Castellani in the 19th Century but various methods of manufacturing and handling of granules have been described by Pliny in 79 AD, V. Biringucchio in 1540, G. Agricola in 1556, B. Cellini in 1568, M. Fachs in 1595 and A. Libavius in 1597/1606. In fact never since it was first used has granulation been a lost art. Until far into the 19th Century, the time of its alleged ‘rediscovery’, this technique has thrived continuously in many places like Russia, Bulgaria, Mongolia, Tibet and Persia. This also holds true for Swiss, German and Dutch folk-jewelry.
Eugène Fontenay (1823-87) was one of the foremost goldsmiths in France during the second half of the nineteenth century. He was a great admirer of the ancient techniques of granulation and filigree, and became best known for his outstanding work in the ‘archaeological’ style. Fontenay was no doubt inspired by the Campana collection of ancient jewellery, acquired by Napoleon III in 1860, and his firm produced much work in the antique style based on Greek, Roman and Etruscan examples.
Click the picture to see a close-up of this magnificent necklace.