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The Pelican in her Piety

  • Object:

    Pendant

  • Place of origin:

    Spain (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1550-1575 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamelled gold, set with a ruby simulant (triplet with a top layer of rock crystal, and with red adhesive layer, and foil), and hung with pearls

  • Museum number:

    335-1870

  • Gallery location:

    Jewellery, Rooms 91 to 93, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery, case 7, shelf D, box 5

This enamelled gold pendant represents a subject known as 'The Pelican in her Piety'. It refers to the medieval fable of the pelican drawing blood from its own breast to feed its young. This image is used to symbolise Christ sacrificing himself on the cross to redeem the world's sins. The pendant was once in the Treasury of the Cathedral of the Virgin of the Pillar in Saragossa, Spain.

Physical description

Pendant, 'The Pelican in Its Piety', enamelled gold set with a foiled ruby simulant and hung with pearls, the back with black-and-white moresques.

Place of Origin

Spain (made)

Date

ca. 1550-1575 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Enamelled gold, set with a ruby simulant (triplet with a top layer of rock crystal, and with red adhesive layer, and foil), and hung with pearls

Dimensions

Height: 96 mm, Width: 38 mm, Depth: 24 mm

Object history note

From the Treasury of the Cathedral of the Virgin of the Pillar, Zaragoza. One of a group of jewels purchased by the Museum in 1870, when the Cathedral authorities sold off treasures presented to the shrine of the Virgin in order to complete their building programme.

Descriptive line

Pendant, 'The Pelican in her Piety', enamelled gold set with a foiled ruby simulant and hung with pearls, the back with black-and-white moresques enamel. Spain, about 1550-75.

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

Somers-Cock, Anna, Princely Magnificence: court jewels of the Renaissance, 1500-1630, V&A, 1980, p. 83, cat. 105

Labels and date

Treasures of the Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts and the Russian Tsars label text:

The Pelican in her Piety pendant
About 1550–75

The pelican feeding her young with blood from her breast is a symbol of Christ. It was associated with Elizabeth as mother of her nation. The queen owned several pelican jewels set with rubies or garnets. One was given by Lady Sidney in 1573.

Probably Spain
Enamelled gold, set with a foiled ruby simulant
(rock crystal with a red adhesive layer) and hung with pearls
Bought at the sale of jewels from the treasury of the Cathedral of the
Virgin of the Pillar, Zaragoza, 1870
V&A 335-1870 []

Materials

Gold; Pearl; Quartz crystal

Techniques

Enamelling

Subjects depicted

Bird; Moresques; Pelican; Christ's sacrifice

Categories

Images Online; Jewellery; Europeana Fashion Project

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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