The Cult of Beauty

Romantic brooch with shellgemme in gold, around 1900

Beauty as the highest good - this has been the idea of many artists, writers and craftsmen since the end of the 19th century. Novels such as Oscar Wilde's Picture of Dorian Gray or the paintings of James McNeill Whistler characterize this epoch, as the works direct attention to the intensely sensual perception of the world, its diverse textures, smells, and fragrances. "They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty" wrote Oscar Wilde in his preface to Dorian Gray, and it soon became a kind of manifesto of aestheticism. The present gem is entirely dedicated to this idea. It depicts a young woman with flowing hair, her shoulders covered by a light fabric. White, she stands out against the rosy ground of the shell. Her profile is turned towards us, and she herself turns towards a flower, probably a lily, from which an intoxicating fragrance seems to rise. Thus the beauty has closed her eyes and is obliviously enjoying the intense scent of the flower. One is led to think of Maria Janitschek's aesthetic short story "In Beauty" (1902), whose protagonist is always wrapped in white, wears white hair and has a fondness for white lilies. "Are you by all means trying to kill us with your lily scent?" her lover asks her one evening, and continues, "It was never so breathtaking." The gem, which dates to around 1900, is framed by a delicate, restrained setting of gold, which does not detract from the portrait. It is in very good condition.

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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.