Beauty and seduction

Exciting art nouveau brooch by Karl Rothmüller, Munich 1898

Sparkling and beautiful, she looks at us, the seductress who has been feared and admired since time immemorial: this brooch of the German Art Nouveau style shows us a snake that suspiciously and jealously guards a branch full of plump, delicious and precious fruit. Jewellery with a snake motif has a tradition dating back several thousand years. The ancient Egyptians knew these symbolic jewels, as did the Greeks, Romans and Celts. The snake was and is in the different cultural circles attributed very different meanings. On the one hand, it was considered dangerous due to its poison and cunning and was avoided as the seductress of Adam and Eve - on the other hand, it was admired for numerous abilities attributed to it. The snake was revered in antiquity as a symbol of eternal life, as the cleverest animal and symbolic animal of the god of medicine, Asclepius. Karl Rothmüller, who designed and made this brooch in 1898, had all these associations in mind and created a piece of jewellery full of seduction and beauty. The snake itself is made of silver. Rubies set its head and eyes. In its mouth it carries a branch of gold, on which three large baroque pearls shimmer like the fruit of a mysterious plant. Is it the fruit of the tree of knowledge, which was the undoing of Adam and Eve? Does the serpent want to seduce us or defend its prey from us? Rothmüller (1860-1930) was one of the most important goldsmiths and jewellers of the Munich Art Nouveau, Royal Bavarian Court Supplier and Professor of Fine Arts. The "Munich Lalique" created numerous precious pieces of jewellery, which take up the motif of the snake in ever new variations. His works are distinguished not only by the masterly workmanship and the choice of the highest quality materials, but also by the mysterious and subterranean symbolism. The company he founded still exists today at Brienner Straße 10. The brooch can be found illustrated alongside other works by Rothmüller in Kunst und Handwerk, Zeitschrift des Bayerischen Kunstgewerbevereins zu München, 47 (1897/98), H. 11 (1898), p. 402. On Rothmüller and his snake jewellery see, among others, Graham Dry: Münchner Schmuck 1900-1940, exh. Cat. Bayerisches Nationalmuseum München, Munich 1990, pp. 42-48 and on the motif of the snake in jewellery also Suzanne Tennenbaum & Janet Zapata: The Jeweled Menagerie. The World of Animals in Gems, New York 2001, pp. 40-45.

A special current within the art of the turn of the century was the so-called Symbolism. Formally closely related to Art Nouveau, it was mainly Belgian artists such as Fernand Khnopff or Félicien Rops who shaped this style, but artists from France such as Gustave Moreau or Odilon Redon and Germany such as Max Klinger also created works that can be assigned to Symbolism. What the paintings, prints, drawings and jewellery designs of this period have in common is that at first glance the designs are often disconcerting or even repulsive, as there was a preference for enigmatic and unusual motifs. Snakes, beetles, skulls and apathetic looking faces populated the canvases to make the viewer think about life, religion, metyphysics and the nature of nature, true to the core sentence of the so-called Symbolist Manifesto of 1886: "The essential characteristic of Symbolist art is never to fix an idea conceptually or to express it directly".

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We want you to be 100% satisfied! That’s why we examine, describe and photograph all our jewellery with the utmost care.

If for any reason you are still not satisfied, contact us and we will find a mutual solution immediately. Regardless, you can return any item within 30 days and we will refund you the full purchase price.

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