Eugene Fontenay Signed Enamel Pendant
A masterpiece of French artistry, this gold and enamel pendant is the work of one of the great jewelry artists of the mid to later 19th century. Held in the highest esteem, Eugene Fontenay was to France what Castellani and Guiliano were to Italy.
With a primary foundation for inspiration from classical antiquity, his technique and design are characterized by superb proportion, elegance and flawless construction. Fontenay was noted for his eloquent and somewhat more feminine or restrained use of forms.
His work was commissioned by an astounding array of royals including the Queen of Portugal, the King of Siam and the Shah of Persia as well as designing a diadem (hair ornament) for the 1855 Exposition Universelle.
Examples of his work are found on pages 118 and 123 in “Necklaces” by Triossi and Mascetti. An entire section (pages 30 to 44) is dedicated to his work in “The Master Jewelers” by Snowman. His work resides in "Les Arts Decoratifs" in Paris, the British Museum and in many other prestigious institutions. Unfortunately most of his work has disappeared and surprisingly few examples remain.
This three part pendant of 18k yellow gold contains a central section that displays an enamel of matte finish (one of the trademarks of Fontenay). A reclining woman attired in a gown of diaphanous fabric floats through the celestial night sky dotted with stars and puffs of clouds. Reminiscent of the beautiful ethereal frescoes of ancient Pompeii, upon her head transparent butterfly wings make up her crown as she grasps her upturned scepter of flowers as petals fall towards the earth.
Differing from some of his colleagues, Fontenay uses diamonds or other gems in his work. In this case as a surround of 29 rose cut diamonds to the enamel panel. Rather than a pure lifting of classical styles which would consist of primarily gold and very few, if any precious stones, he choose his own path but in such a manner they seem perfectly suited to the jewel's presence. All elements incorporate classical architectural forms, immaculately detailed granulation and delicate wire work.
Measurements: 2-11/16 inches (6.8 cm) in length by 1-3/8 inches (3.5 cm) at the widest. Enamel is 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length by 7/16 of an inch (1.3 cm) in width. This antique pendant has a weight of 16.7 grams (10.7 dwt).
Hallmarks: "EF" for Eugene Fontenay and two eagle heads; all marks on top "O" fitting beneath the bale.
Condition: Excellent; at apex of top bale is a slight bend on the wire work around three elements of granulation and dimpling to three granulation orbs none which are seen when worn; a tiny piece of twisted wire work below the main wire work on the top of the bottom drop is deficient. All conditions are evident only upon very close inspection or with magnification.
Date & Origin: Circa 1865 - 1870 and is French in origin.
Overall Scale: Medium
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