20 June 2010

Purity and Peace: The Allure of Pearls

The goddess Juno wore pearl earrings; the month of June is dedicated to her and the pearl is its birthstone. Known as the Queen of Gems, natural pearls are produced by the invasion of a minute parasite which is covered with nacre. Found in oyster beds they were so rare that only the noble and very rich could afford them. From ancient times they were associated with purity and peace but the life of the pearl hunter was difficult and dangerous. Alonso Sánchez Coello (1531-1588) was a Spanish Renaissance painter who pioneered the tradition of Spanish portrait painting. He became the court painter for Philip II of Spain where he painted the thirteen-year-old Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia encrusted with pearls. Venetian Rococo painter Rosalba Carriera (1675-1757) was from the lower middle class and began her career doing miniature portraits on ivory for the lids of snuffboxes. She eventually became a popular portrait painter using the technique of pastel. The portrait of renowned Venetian beauty Caterina Sagredo Barbarigo is attributed to Carriera, it shows her wearing a single-strand pearl collar and pendant pearl earrings. The iridescence and luster of the pearl was also appealing to men especially the Maharajas of India. With the development of cultured pearls and pearl farming in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century the jewel became available to more people with less risk.

10 comments:

  1. Even with the advent of fresh-water pearls, they are still alluring. Barbara

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  2. Barbara~ And so flattering to the wearer. Best, Kendra

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  3. Beautiful portraits. I love the way you have given a modern touch by framing up the infanta asymmetrically. A simple strand of pearls is so lovely, but I've been glad to see more creative uses these days. Maybe someone could be inspired by that turban pin... -- Little Pearl

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  4. le style et la matière~ Thank you as always. One of my favorite pieces of jewelry to wear is a Hattie Carnegie multi-string necklace of faux baroque pearls and blue ceramic jewels. Best, Kendra

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  5. I have always been fascinated by pearls and mother-of-pearl, some of the most precious and beautiful creations by mother nature. I love to look at them, how they change their shimmer with different light. I love paintings which feature pearls but only if they are done with great skill as in your beautiful examples.
    Although pearls are said to bring tears to the one who wears them I love my earrings with one hanging single pearl each. They belong to my favourite jewellery.

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  6. Vyala-Arts~ Thank you, I especially enjoy the use of mother-of-pearl on antique furniture and objects as an embellishment. Best, Kendra

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  7. Kendra, I enjoyed your thoughts on pearls and the month of June and the wonderful paintings. Thanks for sharing your knowledge of art and pearls and there is nothing quite like natural pearls which a surprising number of folks still find today. God bless...nice blog!

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  8. I am looking at the expression on the Infanta's face. Is that a bored resentful thirteen-year old or is that a bored resentful thirteen-year old? She can obviously take or leave those sublime pearls. Wish I could.
    Love pearls on a maharajah!

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  9. Rosie, pearls suit you! Yes the Infanta does look like a sullen teenager, She was probably driving the artist crazy and that was his revenge. Best, Kendra

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