Lockets 10.10.2011

Eternity in a Twist: The Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket and the Hairwork Eternity

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

When presented with a beautiful piece like this, one can’t help but emote. There are so many reasons why this pendant enters into the higher echelon of beauty that requires one to stop and consider it from every angle. Not only is it a beautiful time capsule for Alice herself, but it is also a perfect example of its culture and heritage. To take this into account, we have to look at its shape, its hairwork and its design motifs.

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

For starters, this piece was created in 1730, a period of relative stability in comparison to the previous century of British civil war and restoration, indeed, this period shows the culmination of the results of the restoration, with greater focus on the parliament and a society experiencing the early stages of cultural mobility. How is this relevant to the piece? This particular style carries over much of what came before, an interpretation of styles from the mid-17th century and is forging its links to the styles of pre-Neoclassicism of the mid-18th century, so it truly bares the height of its fashion for this time.

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

Let’s look at the ribbon motif. This was a popular design in mourning and sentimental jewels, with this period of the Baroque/Rococo transition influencing jewellery designs with style carried over from Europe. The ribbon and bow served its function for many purposes; it was a functional design motif, as can be seen with the inscription of the name/dedication on the ribbon, such as that of a banner, it is an elegant style that carries through the mainstream fashion into the jewel, it frames the piece nicely and the symbolism involved of eternity and proximity are closely related to it. Immediately, the sentiment towards the person it is dedicated to shines through.

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

The black enamel is another motif that was popularised and cemented into the mainstream of mourning jewellery, we can draw our conclusions that Alice was not young/unmarried from this (aged 80, as you can see). Stylistically, it’s appropriate and conveys the messaging on the ribbon.

Hon Alice Nugent in a 1730 Mourning Locket

Its shape, close to that of a heart, is another important factor. The heart is an eternal symbol of love and one commonly used in jewellery and art. Most typically, the “Georgian Heart” is referred to as its peak in sentimental jewellery design, but the motif obviously is one of the most famous and used symbols today. However, this style is a precursor to that of the Georgian Heart, with this symbol being used commonly very close to this piece’s construction:

And to show the ribbon in as a dedicated motif:

Also, the ribbon as a bow:

Internally, we have the hairwork, which I think is even more remarkable. The eternity twist of the hair is very common for this time, as it was a popular motif and worked well (symbolically) with the ribbon motif. It was an easy weave and when placed between the transparent halves of the glass or crystal, we have that transparency of affection towards the wearer shining through the hairwork. Truly, there is no closer the loved one could be placed towards the heart.

Below is a ring with very similar style and construction – note the transparency for the hair and the ribbon:

Chas Fraser / OB: 16 April 1746 / Born: May 23/ 1725 Mourning Ring

1725

And another with the ribbon motif:

1770

Many more examples of these can be found at Art of Mourning in the Pendants section or the Rings section!

Dedication: The Hon Alice Nugent Died / Aged 80 20 Decr 1730
Courtesy: Sarah Nehama (Alice piece) and Barbara Robbins