Prophylactic pendant


This pendant was believed to have prophylactic (protective) powers. Similar pendants can be seen in paintings, but surviving examples are rare.

The backs of the gemstones are left open, rather than closed as was usual in this period. This was to allow the medicinal or magical properties of the gems to be transmitted to the skin of the wearer. Magical inscriptions on the reverse added to their power.

Prophylactic pendant

 

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Prophylactic pendant

England, about 1540-60
Gold with enamel, hessonite garnet, peridot
and sapphire drop
Given by Dame Joan Evans
V&A: M.242-1975

Jane Seymour, Queen of England

 

Jane Seymour wears a similar pendant directly against her skin. This direct contact may have been thought to maximise the pendant’s protective properties.

She was the third wife of Henry VIII and died in 1537 after giving birth to the future King Edward VI.

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Jane Seymour, Queen of England

England, about 1536-7
By Hans Holbein the Younger
Oil on panel

Gemäldegalerie, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna

 

This drawing, showing a similar pendant, belongs to an album from the workshop of Arnold Lulls. First recorded around 1585, Lulls later supplied the court of James I and his queen, Anne of Denmark. He died in 1621.

The survival of this drawing from the 1560s and evidence from portraits demonstrate that fashions in jewellery could continue over a long period. Often, the only clue to a precise date of a jewel lies in the details of its decoration.

Drawing for a necklace

 

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Drawing for a necklace

England, about 1560
Pencil, pen and ink, wash, body-colour and gold
V&A: D.6:16-1896

Victoria & Albert Museum, London