‘And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head…’ John 19:2
Shaun Leane crafted his first jewellery for McQueen in 1995. McQueen’s Autumn/Winter 1996 collection included this delicate crown of thorns rendered in silver, worn with an arm piece designed to twine up the arm and across the shoulders. While these adornments may have been unusual, they were not without precedent. Seven decades before, Elsa Schiaparelli’s Autumn/Winter 1938 collection featured floral design elements which appeared to ensnare the body in similarly menacing botanical displays. Schiaparelli created fabric leaves and vines which encircled the throat, and ivy-shaped metal jewellery which wound round the arm, according to British Vogue, ‘like a convolvulus’.
Schiaparelli’s 1938 collection, titled Pagan, was inspired by Classical mythology, including the myth of Daphne, in which the nymph transformed into a laurel tree while attempting to escape the pursuit of Apollo. In contrast, McQueen and Leane’s use of the thorn suggested a biblical symbol and the physical suffering of Christ’s crucifixion. Leane’s delicate, skilled designs capture the fragile yet sinister nature of the thorn. It was an apt motif for a McQueen collection centered on religion as the cause of war with a title referencing Dante Alighieri, the author of the fourteenth-century allegorical poem, The Divine Comedy, a journey through the kingdoms of the Christian afterlife. McQueen stated in a 1997 interview in Time Out, ‘The show’s theme was religion being the cause of war. Fashion’s so irrelevant to life, but you can’t forget the world’.