A 17th century Baroque bow jewel, c. 1660-80, set with 94 no-heat Burmese pink sapphires/rubies (GIA report 2225519822) weighing approx. 8.41 ctw, in a high-carat gold body enameled throughout in the Légaré-style ‘linework & swirl’ technique popular during the third quarter of the 17th century. The pairing of a black and white palette with robin’s egg blue counter-enamel was particularly popular during the second half of the 17th century, and can be seen in a similar bow pendant in the Louvre (inv R 335). The present design type is strongly associated with ruby and pearl: a closely related bow pendant, the front similarly enameled with black linework against a white ground, and set with rubies and pearls, is famously in the Rijksmuseum (inv. BK-1961-3). Likewise the Louvre pendant is set with rubies and pearls. On the other hand, a 17th c bow pendant illustrated on p. 138 of Royal Jewels by Diana Scarisbrick et al. is set exclusively with rubies; like the present example, this pendant features a gem cluster center with tightly packed & arched enameled loops. An amatory pendant and bow-shaped earring in the Victoria & Albert museum (inv 611-1872 and 2824-1856) is also set with rubies against black and white enameling. According to scholar Jan Walgrave (p. 138, Royal Jewels), these ruby jewels carried amuletic and romantic significance: ruby was thought to protect the wearer against blood infections and poison; it is also a symbol of love and lasting friendship.
The amatory character of the present jewel is reflected in the central element, with its pairing of a crown with conjoined circles, forget-me-not blossoms, and the number 3. Crowns have been prevalent symbols in 17th century marriage tokens, representing fidelity and the reign of love. Conjoined circles symbolize the eternal merging of two souls, and is further related to the ∞ infinity symbol, which since the 17th century has represented the concept of eternity (including mathematical infinity, as used by John Wallis in 1655). According to Diana Scarisbrick (p. 88, Rings: Jewelry of Power, Love, and Loyalty), the number three was pronounced in Saxon like treu, the word for ‘faithful/true’, thus serving as a homonym and rebus for this ideal. The ‘3’ motif has been associated with German sentimental jewelry made during the 17-18th centuries, suggesting the present pendant could also be German in origin. Two small 17th c German love badges, one in the form of crowned conjoined circles, and the other with a ‘three’, are published in Joyaux Renaissance: Une Splendeur Retrouveé by J. Kugel (cat. 97,98). Two further badges with the ‘3’ motif are in the Victoria & Albert Museum (451-1873, 9081-1863).
Bow-shaped jewels evolved from counterparts in cloth and ribbon; 16th century Renaissance portraits show a great popularity of fabric bows as sartorial ornaments (for example, the 1558 Portrait of Jane Dormer by Antonis Mor). Throughout the Renaissance and Baroque eras, it was common to style jewels via hanging from a ribbon bow, or to fix dress jewels to the centers of fabric bows. By the early 17th c., fabric bows morphed into jeweled forms, though the two mediums continued to enjoy concurrent popularity. Inventories and portraits from the 1630s-on confirm the existence of bow-shaped jewels, often in a simple form of lined diamonds or pearls (see c.1630 portrait of Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia). Around 1660, the French court of Louis XIV further popularized bow-form jewels, with Madame de Sévigné (1626-96) so strongly associated with the bow that bow-shaped jewels to this day bear her name. According to the c.1690 Diction-Naire Universel by Antoine Furetière, gem-set jewels made to imitate ribbon bows were then simply known as ‘noeud’ (knot). French court jewelers Gilles Légaré and François Lefebvre also perfected the jeweled bow during the 1660s, publishing a series of design prints in 1663 and 1665 that was widely circulated across Europe. The Légaré-type bows feature a two-loop form, intricate painted enamelwork, in addition to the effusive setting of gems, as well as arched and swirling flat bands of enameled gold to resemble ribbon loops. According to the Rijksmuseum, double bows were worn by the wealthiest of women. Jewels like the present example were mostly worn as bodice ornaments. The c. 1660 portrait of Justina Katharina Kirchmayr by Daniel Preisler shows a similar pendant fixed against a stomacher of looped ribbons, a style wildly popular between 1660-80. However, jeweled bows were also worn in the hair (see c. 1670 portrait of Petronella de Waert by Gerard ter Borch II), pinned to sleeves, and by men (see c. 1666 portrait of Un caballero de la Orden de Santiago by Juan Carreño de Miranda). 17th century enamel pendant. 17th century enamel pendant. 17th century enamel pendant.