May 29 Art Minute: Ernesto Perriet, Bracelet in “Archaeological Style”

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Ernesto Pierret (Italian, born France, 1824–1898?), Bracelet in "Archaeological Style." Gold, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, agate cameo, about 1865. 7 1/2 inches long. Mr. and Mrs. George M. Jones, Jr., Fund, 1999.11A–B. Gallery 34

Ernesto Pierret (Italian, born France, 1824–1898?), Bracelet in “Archaeological Style.” Gold, rubies, emeralds, diamonds, agate cameo, about 1865. 7 1/2 inches long. Mr. and Mrs. George M. Jones, Jr., Fund, 1999.11A–B. Gallery 34

Although many revival styles characterize the nineteenth century, none was more enduring nor found more sumptuous expression than antiquity-inspired jewelers’ work created in Rome.

At the time this bracelet was created, Italy was not yet unified and Rome was an embattled metropolis under Papal and French protectorate. Increasing Italian nationalism may have been the underlying sentiment for Ernesto Pierret’s choice of the central design element, the agate cameo portrait bust in the style of Roman Republican sculpture of the first century BCE. It recalls portraits of the Roman statesman and general Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

By the 1860s, clients faced a decline in the availability of hard stone gems for cameos due to increased production of cheaper, carved seashell cameos. An agate cameo of such large dimension as this would only have been produced as a special order from an independent expert carver. Pierret mounted this exquisitely carved gem in an architectural hinged cuff that recalls Byzantine designs. He then embellished it with fine granulation and beaded wire, the whole sparkling with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds. The central cameo-set ornament can be removed and worn as a brooch.


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