Pearls and hairwork are often two of the most common materials used in stringing a bracelet from the neoclassical era, much of the time these materials have been replaced since their creation, however, it is quite common to find the bracelet clasp on its own, such as this piece and the one posted recently.
Let’s reflect upon the symbolism for a moment. On direct appearance, we have the angel, the woman, the urn, plinth, cypress and the willow. All of these symbols are the ideal for their time and are the fundamental basis for mourning art, regardless of the quality. In this particular piece, it’s essential to first note the quality of the face to the woman and the angel. There is an inherent simplicity and generic nature to the features, with the simple line/dot work comprising the art. Much of the quality is within the shading of the sepia, with its rich earth-tones. Here, the fall and creases of her dress, as well as the willow framing the piece make up much of the detail.
One could assume that this piece began its life as a pre-produced miniature that was appropriated and customised by the wearer; the ‘To Bliss’ and ‘Affection Weeps / Heaven Rejoices’ sentiment are in different tones than the sepia itself, as well as the awkward contouring of the ‘To Bliss’ sentiment upon the scroll held by the angel. Compare this with this ‘Sacred to the Best of Friends’ piece and you’ll note the wide variation in detail. Certainly, the other piece benefits from being full colour, but fine sepia work with personalised detail was achievable and common.
What does denote high quality with this piece is the frame of pearls; an exotic and popular material for jewellery in the late 19th century (read more about that here) and a material that isn’t necessary to frame such a magnificent piece, but only adds to its aesthetic value.