One Design, Many Pendants

A young German art historian[3] has recently identified eight book-shaped pendants with strikingly similar features, including the objects in both the Courtauld and the V&A collections. Each of these eight pendants is composed of four reverse-painted (verre églomisé) panels set in a book-shaped silver-gilt frame. The details are virtually identical in nearly all of them, and most are tentatively dated to the early 1600s.

European, Pendant in the Shape of a Book, c.1600, 3.2 x 2.5 cm, Walters Art Museum

On the Courtauld’s piece, the glass is almost certainly seventeenth century work, but the mounts are more difficult to date and the question of their making is unclear.

Until now, the only scholarly publication on these particular pendants is an article of 1942, in which the author speculated that the pendants could initially have been made as metal frames into which the purchaser would have inserted glass panels that depicted subjects of their choice.[4] However, as noted above, it is also possible that the panels were seventeenth-century glass from another object, which had been inserted into the mounts at a later date.

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