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Rare 16th-century Scottish miniature portrait pendant to go under the hammer


A rare Scottish heirloom with an 'extraordinary provenance' will go under the hammer next week, as part of the Christie's Important Jewels sale on 28 November 2018.

UPDATE: THE PORTRAIT MINIATURE (LOT 159) WAS SOLD FOR £12,500. View the full results here.

The 16th century enamel and garnet two-sided portrait miniature pendant, circa 1560-1590, has descended directly through the Earls of Darnley and Dukes of Lennox to the present owner and, although the persons depicted have not as yet been identified, it is highly likely they depict some of the most prominent members of the Scottish Court during the second half of the 16th century.

This jewel represents a specifically Scottish type of jewellery, traditionally associated with the court of Mary Queen of Scots and James VI of Scotland, there are no direct equivalents known that originate from England or Europe.

Who is shown on the portraits?

According to Christie's sale catalogue, the 'extraordinary provenance' of this jewel descending directly though the Earls of Darnley and the Dukes of Lennox to the present owner, it is highly likely that the portraits depict some of the most prominent members of the Scottish Court in the mid-late 16th Century.
Although the miniatures have not been be definitively identified at this time, they could portray the youthful James VI and his wife Anne of Denmark (read about their taste for expensive jewellery here) or James VI and Mary Queen of Scots, or indeed 1st Earl of Moray James Stewart and his wife Agnes who married in 1561. 
This pendant compares with a group of miniatures traditionally associated with James VI and his mother, Mary Queen of Scots, also mounted as jewels, similarly decorated with cloisonné enamel scrolls and dated to the last decades of the 16th century. When they were exhibited at The Art of Jewellery in Scotland (ed. Rosalind Marshall and George Dalgleish, Scottish National Portrait Gallery,1991, no. 7) George Dalgleish suggested that these jewels could represent a specifically Scottish style of jewellery as there are no surviving equivalent examples from either England or Europe.

Craftmanship of the pendant

A rare Renaissance double-sided gold trefoil pendant, each lobe enclosing a dark blue cloisonné enamel crescent moon attached to a pair of dark green cloisonné confronted scrolls on a pounced ground, centred on a pair of oval miniature portrait busts to the front and reverse.
A woman with a bilament in her dark hair, wearing a low-cut red dress with stand-up collar facing towards the left, is on one side, and on the other a man with a moustache and beard, a ruff at his neck and a black hat encircled with a band of jewelled buttons, his head turned towards the right.
A cabochon garnet set between white enamel discs simulating pearls embellishes the spaces between each of the three crescents and three faceted garnets hang from the base. Attached to a rope twist ring, the trefoil is surmounted by a small suspension loop between a pair of volutes.

Item details

Opposing portrait miniatures depicting a male and female sitter respectively, blue, green and white enamel, circular cabochon and faceted bead garnets, gold, 3.9 cm. Estimate: £10,000-15,000.
For details of the Important Jewels sale, visit Christie's website.

(image copyright Christie's Images Ltd 2018)


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