Breast ornament


A breast ornament was a large, highly fashionable jewel worn on the front of a woman’s gown or bodice.

This example is 12.5 centimetres high and has 208 diamonds. The setting is in a style known as ‘cosse de pois’ (pea pod). This was fashionable in France between the 1620s and the 1650s, but other botanical motifs remained popular throughout the century.

Breast ornament

 

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Breast ornament

Probably France, about 1620-30
Gold with enamel and table-cut and faceted point-cut diamonds
Given by Dame Joan Evans
V&A: M.143-1975

Hélène Fourment in Her Bridal Gown

 

In this portrait Hélène Fourment, the second wife of Peter Paul Rubens, wears a large bodice ornament similar to the one shown here.

Her fashionable gown has a stiff bodice, which can support both visually and physically the imposing jewel.

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Hélène Fourment in Her Bridal Gown

The Netherlands, about 1630
By Peter Paul Rubens

Alte Pinakothek, Munich

 

The ‘cosse de pois’ style originated in France in the 1620s, when designers published drawings for highly stylised botanical arrangements. Prints helped spread the style across Europe.

Goldsmiths adapted the style to jewels, replacing peas in pods with diamonds in gold.

Design for Jewellery

 

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Design for Jewellery

The Netherlands, 1638
Engraving published by Claes Jansz Visscher
After a design by Jacques Caillart first published in 1627
V&A: E.1414-1907

Design for Jewellery
1638 reproduction by William Hondius of the design by Jaques Caillart
published in Paris,1627
Museum no. E.1414-1907
Design for Jewellery

 

The backplate of the breast ornament resembles this ‘cosse de pois’ drawing by Balthasar Lemercier.

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Design for Jewellery

Paris, 1626
By Balthasar Lemercier
Engraving
V&A: E.2760-1910

9-3 E1414 1907 Caillart