“Angels Weep When Children Mourn” is one of the more unique statements that you may find on a Neoclassical jewel, indeed, it is a sentiment that is individual to its very nature.
As seen in the pieces below:
These jewels have a standardised method of depicting their sentiment. There are certain things to look for; note the style and the poise of the subject, as well as the detail to the face. Other than this, sepia pieces alter in the colour of the sepia used in the piece, so quite often, the sentiment that is written of the piece can be of a different colour than the depiction.
With this particular bracelet clasp, there is a large, oval shape, not the typical navette, which puts it around the 1780s, rather than the 1790s. The bracelet may have been strung with hair or pearls, both were typical of the time, but we can’t rule out other materials as well.
And here, we look to the depiction itself. The cherub/angel leans with its right arm upon the urn and the left hand pointing downwards with its index finger. The right wing is unfurled and the left is relaxed at the back.
Notice the shading to the entire piece and its uniform nature of how it all interacts. The clasp does offers balance across all its symbolism and artistry; the ribbon banner is shaded in the same manner to give depth to it as a banner, the urn is deeply shaded, the wing and the cherub/angel have dimension and all work in unison to create a field of vision that presents itself in three dimensions. To enhance this, the willows in the background, depicted small, give the impression that the cherub/angel and the urn are directly in front of us, with the banner fluttering in the breeze.
Looking back to the cherub, the hair, body shape and position are all non-standardised. Its torso and detail to the musculature of the legs show a very natural shape, with the ripples and softer aspects, rather than being an idillic, ‘perfect’ depiction of the body for a youth. It is almost as if the cherub/angel is a depiction of the mourning youth itself.
Finally, the sentiment is the most powerful and individual statement. Indeed, fathers, mothers husbands and wives mourned, as was the indoctrination of the time, but for a child to be focused upon as in mourning was not the enforced standard of the three stages of mourning. It is a piece that tells a personal tale, beyond its greater social aspects.
This is not just exceptional artwork for its form, but also sentimental in its child dedication. Note the sepia art and how crisp it is. A piece like this is rare to be found in a bracelet clasp and even more so in its condition. Bracelet clasps from this era often have unique depictions, due to their grand nature (larger than a ring) and are more relative to a miniature than a smaller piece.