Large brooch made of vulcanite in the style of a cameo, Great Britain circa 1870
Black jewelry was associated with mourning, especially in the mid-Victorian period. While at the beginning of the century people still wore so-called memorial jewelry, which was always a personalized memento of a specific person, half a century later mourning jewelry was supposed to be merely a black accessory to the socially dictated mourning attire and was no longer associated with a specific person. Then, towards the end of the 19th century, black jewelry was worn even without a mourning context, simply because it was fashionable. Various materials were used to make dark jewelry, such as jett, a stone coal that is particularly easy to carve, onyx, or even black glass ("French jett"). The brooch presented here is made of vulcanite. This then new hard rubber was obtained from the sap of the tropical rubber tree. It was also known as "India Rubber". The advantage over the jett was also that vulcanite was less brittle and fragile and thus of greater durability. The oval brooch shows as application the plastic bust of a young lady with vine leaves and vines in her hair. It is a bacchante. Like her Greek counterpart, the Maenad, she was a follower of the wine god Bacchus (Dionysus), who was famous and infamous for his lavish parties, the so-called "Bacchanalia". The image of the Bacchante in the history of Western art is strongly influenced by the form that the cult, which was Greek in origin, took with the Romans. The Roman Bacchanalia probably originated from spring festivals. At the beginning of the 2nd century BC, the cult celebrations then developed into excessive revelries accompanied by dances and orgies, which took place in secret. In later centuries, bacchants became synonymous with celebrating fun-loving people, but especially with lovers of good wine. The unusual brooch of the years around 1870 convinces with its dark shine until today, it found its way to us here in Berlin.
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