Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Pendant with Venus and Cupid on a Dolphin

Artist:
partly designed and perhaps made by Reinhold Vasters (German, Erkelenz 1827–1909 Aachen) or
Artist:
Alfred André (French, 1839–1919)
Date:
ca. 1865–90
Medium:
enameled gold, rubies, and pearls
Dimensions:
H. 11 cm, w. 8.5 cm.
Classifications:
Jewelry, Precious Metals and Precious Stones
Credit Line:
Robert Lehman Collection, 1975
Accession Number:
1975.1.1513
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 951
The white enameled figures of Venus and Cupid are seated upon a fantastic sea creature. The mythological subject of Venus, goddess of love, accompanied by her son Cupid and a sea creature (signifying her birth from the sea and erotic love), dates back to antiquity and was a popular theme during the Renaissance and later periods. A pendant with such amorous connotations could have served as a nuptial gift. A series of sixteenth-century engravings by Adriaen Collaert depicting designs for pendants in the form of sea monsters attests to the popularity of this motif in Renaissance jewelry. Such engravings likely provided models for the highly skilled European goldsmiths of the nineteenth century, such as Reinhold Vasters and Alfred André, who produced Renaissance-revival jewelry, of which the present pendant is a striking example.

The white enameled figures of Venus and Cupid, shielding themselves below the arch of a golden, wind-blown shawl, are seated upon a fantastic sea creature. Traditionally identified as a dolphin, the scales of this marine monster are enameled in translucent green, while its fin-like forms are enameled in red and white. Delineated with strong curvilinear contours, the creature’s exotic face is primarily made of gold, with ruby-set eyes and white enamel for the menacing teeth and tongue. The sea monster’s body, from which three pearls are suspended, is supported by two gold chains joined by an enameled gold cartouche, which is set with a ruby and hung with a pearl.


The mythological subject of Venus, goddess of love, accompanied by her son Cupid and a sea creature (signifying her birth from the sea and erotic love), dates back to antiquity and was a popular theme during the Renaissance and later periods. A pendant with such amorous connotations could have served as a nuptial gift. A series of sixteenth-century engravings by Adriaen Collaert depicting designs for pendants in the form of sea monsters attests to the popularity of this motif in Renaissance jewelry. Such engravings likely provided models for the highly skilled European goldsmiths of the nineteenth century, who produced Renaissance-revival jewelry, of which the present pendant is a striking example.


The nineteenth century witnessed an increasing demand for Renaissance jewelry among collectors and the rarity of such pieces prompted the production of high quality imitations. The Austrian collector and dealer Frédéric Spitzer supplied many such modern productions to collectors, employing the goldsmiths Reinhold Vasters and Alfred André to design jewelry and metalwork in the Renaissance style. The 1978 discovery of numerous designs by Vasters in the Victoria and Albert Museum sheds significant light upon the production of nineteenth-century jewelry that was traditionally identified as belonging to the Renaissance period. One drawing in particular (E.2833.1919) presents a design that is very close to the Lehman Collection pendant in the configuration of the cartouche, chains, and four hanging pearls (the pendant is not included). André produced numerous molds for pendants depicting marine animals, which closely recall the fantastic creature in the Lehman example. Vasters and André may have been familiar with sixteenth-century engravings of pendant designs, such as that depicting a sea creature carrying Tobias and the Angel Neptune.

Alison Manges Nogueira [2016]
[Frédéric Spitzer, Paris]; Spitzer sale, Paris 17 April-16 June 1893, lot 1826, pl. XLVII; J. Pierpont Morgan, New York; [French & Company, New York]. Aquired by Robert Lehman from French & Company in December 1943.
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