Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.


  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    c.1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Foy, René (designed and made by)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and painted ivory, enamelled gold, diamonds and pearl

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Sonya in memory of David Newell-Smith

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 26, shelf B, box 2

In 1901 the Paris correspondent for the magazine The Lady’s Realm described René Foy as ‘A regular exhibitor at the Salons, his work always calls for special note’. Photographs of jewellery he exhibited at the Paris Salons between 1899 and 1903, and of work exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900 survive (including a necklace illustrated in Vever’s three volume history ‘French Jewellery of the Nineteenth Century’). These indicate that, although now little known, he was a notable presence in French jewellery at the turn of the century, exhibiting work in the art nouveau style in enamelled gold and carved ivory. He also designed for the stage, devising jewellery and other items for the actress Sarah Bernhardt in the title role of Victorien Sardou’s play, Théodora, in its 1902 revival at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris.

In November 1903, he featured again in the Lady’s Realm. According to John N. Raphael in his article The Jeweller-Poets of Paris ‘René Lalique, Foy, Fouquet and Vever, and a few others may be looked upon as the pioneers of the renaissance of jewellery’. He is portrayed as a flamboyant figure promoting jewellery as art and vociferously opposed to more conventional gem-set jewellery. His response to La Belle Otéro’s appearance at the Folies Bergère in her diamond corselet is recorded as ‘barbarous, unrefined, unmodern, unaesthetic!’; while the author reports his ‘disgust at shrieking blazes of rubies, emeralds, and diamonds which make a Hatton Garden counter of a woman, instead of, as she should be, a picture of which jewels are the frame and the enhancement.’

The exact date of this brooch is unknown although an ivory comb with similar carving is included in a photograph of Foy’s display at the Salon of 1899.

Physical description

An ivory plaque in an enamelled gold mount set with seven diamonds and with a pearl drop. The ivory is carved with a classical scene showing three female figures tending a sacred fire within a circular temple edged with ionic columns. The columns are linked with garlands of enamelled gold foliage in green and red, and the perspective is emphasised by the recessed shape of the ivory. The curved back is of polished gold, with a gold pin and two hinged loops.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


c.1900 (made)


Foy, René (designed and made by)

Materials and Techniques

Carved and painted ivory, enamelled gold, diamonds and pearl

Marks and inscriptions

René Foy engraved on reverse
French eagle mark on upper edge of frame,on the back and the pin, for 18 carat gold
Illegible lozenge mark on the pin


Height: 50 mm, Width: 56 mm, Depth: 17.5 mm

Descriptive line

Brooch/pendant; a carved and painted ivory plaque of the Vestal Virgins set in enamelled gold with diamonds and a pearl, by René Foy, France, c.1900


Ivory; Gold; Diamonds; Pearl; Enamel


Jewellery; Metalwork; Architecture


Metalwork Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.