Quite often, I write about the standardisation in mourning and sentimental Neoclassical depictions. These standardisations manifest themselves in the most common symbols of love and grief. Notably, the female depiction, being the focal point of the romantic ideal, in a typical pose of standing/sitting next to the plinth or tomb, the urn itself and the willow as a border to the piece. As many of these sentimental depictions were painted in sepia or colour upon ivory or vellum and mounted in a ring, bracelet clasp or pendant, they had little real estate to infuse higher levels of detail into the piece. More common were the pieces which had been pre-painted and only tailored to the person who purchased them, leaving many of the mass-produced details across many pieces similar.
Then there are pieces like the one above. This miniature, being larger, adds a new dimension to the mourning depiction and adds a refreshingly unique style to transcend the common mourning symbolism.
Its perspective is much more in the traditional, and more literal, style of Ancient Greece, rather than in the immediate standard of the mourning figure and the tree being shown in the forefront of the piece. Here, we have surrounding landscape, with the woman, plinth and urn in much more realistic perspective within the middle of the scene. The fine shading, with the light source to the left of the piece, enhances the dimension and perspective, shining onto the mourning elements, as well as creating the environment of the surrounding trees.
> Perspective: ‘Not Lost But Gone Before’ Sepia / Neoclassical Ideal
The female, dressed in her white, Neoclassical costume is appropriate for this period in fashion, however, her figure and poise is much different to that of other female mourning pieces. She is more full-figured, with a bent neck and relaxed, alluding to a Hellenistic statue in style; very comfortable in her surroundings. Her interaction with the plinth and the drapery of her costume shows that all the elements were considered when this piece was designed, rather than combined to work in unison – truly a work of ‘art’.
> The Female: To Bliss, A Sepia Mourning Bracelet Clasp
Also non-standardised is the urn. This style of urn, being tall and heavily detailed, is much different to the standard shorter styles that are seen in typical Neoclassical jewels. The garland even drapes off the urn onto the plinth, which once again unifies all the elements together.
> Contemporary Urn: A Navette Sepia Hairwork Mourning Ring, c.1790
Much more interesting are the skull and crossbones Memento Mori symbols seen at the base. Here, we have what would be considered an anachronism for its time, however, that would be for those standardised pieces which applies to a popular market. This piece was designed and artistically executed for an individual, which means that if it wasn’t a requested addition, then it was the artist’s license to apply those symbols. If anything, it enforces the message of mourning and grief, which suits the loneliness of the landscape in this piece.
Without the opulence and immediate perspective of the weeping willow, mourning female and urn, there is an emptiness here that is bought to life by a stunning execution and realness, making the art seem as natural as a photograph today.
> A Father’s Grief in a Ring From 1796
> Symbolism Sunday, The Male
> For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow
> Knowing Your Fashion, Mourning Fashion in the 17th-19th Centuries
> A Navette Sepia Hairwork Mourning Ring, c.1790
> Memento Mori in Jewellery: Anachronistic 1780s White Enamel Ring Where Memento Mori Meets Neoclassicism
> To Bliss, A Sepia Mourning Bracelet Clasp
> Weeping Angel Neoclassical Bracelet
> Dreams of Utopia
> A Lantern Lights the Way / Neoclassical Sepia Brooch