Necklace with pendant mask of the river god Achelous


Jewellery in the archaeological style was popular in intellectual circles from around 1860 until the 1880s. As in this necklace, it used forms and decorations from the ancient world.

This pendant depicts the Greek river god Achelous and imitates the ancient Etruscan technique of granulation. Carlo Guiliano probably based the pendant on a mask of Achelous displayed in Paris in 1862.

Necklace with pendant mask of the river god Achelous

 

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Necklace with pendant mask of the river god Achelous


London, about 1865
Made by Carlo Giuliano (about 1831-95)
Granulated gold beads and mask
V&A: 163&PART-1900

A contemporary satirical sketch of an English devotee of the ‘High Classical School of Ornament’

 

As this cartoon suggests, the size and weight of faithfully reproduced archaeological jewellery could make it difficult to wear. In the caption underneath, the young lady complained that her ‘gladiator’s necklace is positively distressing to the collar bones’ and her ‘hair is visibly diminished since she took to wearing Greek daggers and Roman pins’.

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A contemporary satirical sketch of an English devotee of the ‘High Classical School of Ornament’



Cartoon from Punch, 15 July 1859

Reproduced with permission of Punch Ltd

 

The archaeological style was inspired by Etruscan earrings such as these.

In the 19th century jewellers were determined to emulate the intricate techniques for which the Etruscans were famous, particularly granulation and filigree. The Etruscans managed to attach decorative gold granules and wires to a base without solder, but it was not until the 1920s that goldsmiths in Western Europe succeeded in doing this.

Bag-shaped earrings (baule)

 

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Bag-shaped earrings (baule)

Tuscany (Etruria), about 550-450 BC
Sheet gold with filigree and granulation
Case 2. V&A: 8731A-1863

Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Necklace and pendant with head of Achelous

 

This Etruscan pendant depicts Achelous, the river god in Greek mythology, who could appear as a bull, a serpent or a bull-headed man. It was one of the most famous jewels in the Campana collection, displayed in Paris from 1862. In his interpretation, Giuliano flattened the head and lengthened the beard of the river god.

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Necklace and pendant with head of Achelous

Tuscany (Etruria), Chiusi, about 480BC
Gold

Musée du Louvre, Paris
Photo RMN / © Gérard Blot / Christian Jean