Cheapside Hoard, salamander
This exhibition is spectacular! The Cheapside Hoard at the Museum of London. I read about it the last time I was in England but didn’t manage to get there. This time around my cousins wanted to go into town so we all went together and exhausted ourselves running around London. Actually, no exhaustion – it was lovely. The weather was good to us, and sitting in the top section of one of the new double decker buses meant we could see all the city architecture.
This salamander ornament is probably the highlight for me. Tiny and exquisite. I’m sure my cousin won’t mind me telling a story on him… he called me over to see this really cool green “caterpillar” not realising at first glance, it had feet!
Set in gold this hat ornament is made with cabochon emeralds and table-cut diamonds. Interesting bits of information – “Tudor and Jacobean hat jewels often expressed the sentiments or the sporting, spiritual and cultural interests of the wearer. The salamander had an emblematic significance since it was thought it could pass through fire without harm by exuding a milky substance which moistened its skin. Fashions in Renaissance jewellery were international and the salamander appears elsewhere, particularly in Spain and as here, in England.”
Cheapside Hoard, emerald clock
This emerald clock got me too. And my cousin, as he is an avid clock collector. A whole chunk of Columbian emerald crystal….Gosh, is all I can say. Here’s the nitty gritty – “The movement and dial plate are corroded and cannot be raised out of the setting. The dial plate is enamelled in translucent green and the circular gold suspension loop and button securing the movement at the base are set with small emeralds. The suspension loop is set in a white enamelled flower, c.1610. The main body of the case is cut from a single piece of emerald with a lid of facetted emerald. The catch for the lid consists of a gold pin set in the base which passes through a hole in a gold tube set in the lid. The watch has a gold dial overlaid with dark green enamel through which can be seen the engraved design of radiating lines.”
Cheapside Hoard, scent bottle
And how about this stunning scent bottle? From the Museum of London’s info – “Gold scent bottle enamelled white and set with opaline chalcedony plaques, rubies, spinels and diamonds, with a gold suspension chain. This richly decorated bottle was designed to contain perfume made from flower distillations and spices which were widely used to disguise unpleasant odours. One of Shakespeare’s sonnets refers to a bottle of this type and filled with ‘sumer’s distillation left/A liquid prisioner pent in walls of glass/Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft.'”
At the exhibition you could open a little door in the wall and smell the scent they used to cover up all the pongs of the day. Don’t want to think about it!
I was very taken with the designs, especially the exceptionally long necklaces which could be translated into beadwork.
We were denuded of our handbags which had to be locked away before entering the dungeon-like exhibition space. All to get you in the mood I presume because the jewelry was displayed under lids of glass and wasn’t going anywhere.
The Museum provided a magnifying glass so you could examine the pieces close up. Sometimes I found myself peering at a dangling pendant, only to realise I was gazing straight into the enormous eyes of the exhibition goer on the other side of the display……