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Ring

  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1870 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Lepec, Charles, born 1830 (enameller)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamelled gold ring with enamel and brilliant-cut diamonds

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Mrs Harriet Bolckow

  • Museum number:

    746-1890

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 23, shelf C, box 11

The painted enamel figure on the bezel of this late 19th century ring shows Psyche, wrapped in draperies and wearing butterfly wings. She is holding the oil lamp with which she has discovered the identity of her mysterious bridegroom, Cupid, the Greek god of love. The story of Psyche and Cupid was recorded in the Latin tale of the Golden Ass, compiled by Lucius Apuleius in the second century AD and rediscovered during the Renaissance. It became a popular subject in art, sculpture and literature during the 19th century.

The enamel was painted by the French painter and enameller Charles Lepec (1830-1890). Lepec trained as a painter under Hippolyte Flandrin, himself a pupil of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and worked with the skilled enameller Charles Dotin. Lepec exhibited his enamels at the 1862 London International Exhibition, as well as the subsequent 1871 London Exhibition. The 1867 Paris Exposition was particularly important to Lepec's career, his Renaissance inspired works won him a gold medal in enamelling and brought his work to new prominence. Lepec was represented in London by the jeweller Robert Phillips who was praised for his acumen. In 1867, the Art Journal rejoiced that "nearly the whole of Lepec's productions have been purchased for England by Mr Robert Phillips, who was the first in this country to appreciate the great artist, and who must rejoice to witness his accumulated fame."

The Middlesborough industrialist Henry Bolkcow (1806-78) was one of Robert Phillips' enthusiastic clients. Bolkcow, a naturalised German, had made his fortune in the iron industry. He became the first mayor of Middlesborough, a member of Parliament and a local philanthropist. He and his wife Harriet made a number of purchases of Lepec enamels from Robert Phillips' shop. Alongside this ring, one of the smallest objects produced by Lepec, Bolkcow also bought the enamelled shield of Clemence Isaure, the largest enamelled object made by Lepec and which had proved a particularly difficult technical challenge. The shield is now in the Musee d'Orsay, Paris. Harriet Bolkcow survived her husband and on her death in 1890, left the Psyche ring, a group of assorted jewels and her collection of lace to the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A).

Physical description

Enamelled gold ring with an oval bezel with a painted enamel plaque of Psyche by Charles Lepec, and a border of brilliant-cut diamonds

Place of Origin

Paris (made)

Date

ca. 1870 (made)

Artist/maker

Lepec, Charles, born 1830 (enameller)

Materials and Techniques

Enamelled gold ring with enamel and brilliant-cut diamonds

Dimensions

Height: 2.2 cm, Width: 2 cm, Depth: 3 cm

Descriptive line

Enamelled gold ring with a painted enamel plaque of Psyche by Charles Lepec, and a border of brilliant-cut diamonds, Paris, ca.1870.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Gere, Charlotte and Rudoe, Judy 'Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria'
Hurstel, Olivier and Levy, Martin; 'Charles Lepec and the Patronage of Alfred Morrison', Metropolitan Museum Journal, vol. 50, 2015, pp. 195-223
https://metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/Hurstel_Levy_Metropolitan_Museum_Journal_v_50_2015

Church, Rachel; Rings; Thames and Hudson/ V&A 2017, p. 82, cat. 102

Materials

Gold; Enamel; Diamond

Categories

Jewellery; Metalwork; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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