Brooch with cameo of Queen Victoria

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.

Brooch with cameo of Queen Victoria

 

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Brooch with cameo of Queen Victoria

Paris, dated 1851
By Félix Dafrique; cameo by Paul Lebas (active 1829-70)
Shell, gold, enamel, emeralds and diamonds
V&A: M.340-1977

The Opening of the Great Exhibition by Queen Victoria

 


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

This view depicts the opening ceremony on 1 May 1851, which some said was even grander than the coronation. The project had been championed by the queen’s husband, Prince Albert, and the royal family visited the exhibition on several occasions.

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The Opening of the Great Exhibition by Queen Victoria


England, 1851-2
By Henry Courtney
Oil on canvas
V&A: 329-1889

Victoria & Albert Museum, London

 

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.

Queen Victoria

 

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Queen Victoria

Paris, 1839
By Henri Grevedon, after the 1838 portrait by Thomas Sully
Lithograph

© Copyright the Trustees of The British Museum, London