Brooch with cameo of Queen Victoria, by Félix Dafrique; cameo by Paul Lebas (active 1829-70)

Brooch with cameo of Queen Victoria, by Félix Dafrique; cameo by Paul Lebas (active 1829-70)

Brooch with cameo of Queen Victoria (front above, back below)
By Félix Dafrique; cameo by Paul Lebas (active 1829-70)
Paris
Dated 1851
Shell, gold, enamel, emeralds and diamonds
Museum no. M.340-1977
© Victoria & Albert Museum, London

This brooch was shown at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, perhaps to attract the queen’s attention during one of her many visits to the exhibition. The image was taken from a portrait that showed the queen in Garter robes.

The Parisian jeweller Félix Dafrique revived a Renaissance style of jewel called ‘commesso’ (meaning ‘joined’). The cameo was cut by Paul Lebas, a well-regarded sculptor and gem engraver, who often exhibited at the Paris Salon. His most prominent works included cameo portraits of the French royal family.

The brooch was shown at the Great Exhibition, where over 6 million visitors viewed more than 13,000 exhibits.

In carving the cameo, Lebas probably followed this engraving. The original portrait shows the queen facing the other way, but the engraving is in reverse.

Sully was a society portraitist from Philadelphia. On a visit to London in 1837 he was commissioned to paint a portrait of the new queen. He was delighted with her ‘sweet tone of voice, and gentle manner’. She, in turn, was pleased with the portrait, which highlighted her best features: her shoulders and the curving line of her neck.