Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 52a

Locket

1750-1800 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This locket in the shape of a coffin is an example of mourning jewellery. It may have been made specially for the period of mourning. This was a common practice, and wills might specify a sum of money to buy rings or other jewellery for the mourners. These items often included the initials and date of death of the deceased, with perhaps a special compartment to store hair from the dead person.

Time
Mourning jewellery may have evolved from the impersonal memento mori jewellery that had been used in the past. Memento mori ( 'Be mindful of death') is the term for the inclusion of a symbol of death into the design of an art object or jewel as a reminder of life's transience. Such jewellery was found all over Europe, with skulls, skeletons and coffins used to ornament rings and pendants. The Torre Abbey jewel of 1540-1550 (museum no. 3581-1856) is an example of such a pendant.

By the mid 17th century mourning jewellery commemorating the death of a specific person, using the same symbols, was becoming more common. Later jewellery used sentimental motifs such as a woman weeping at a tomb or a broken column to express sorrow and loss. By the early 19th century, mourning had become an elaborate ritual, with specific clothing and social behaviour required for a particular length of time.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Silver
Brief Description
Silver locket in the form of a coffin, inscribed GMC 5 April 1782. England ,ca. 1782.
Dimensions
  • Height: 10cm
  • Width: 3.5cm
  • Depth: 1.5cm
Dimensions checked: Measured; 24/11/1998 by MH
Marks and Inscriptions
Marked with maker's initials 'JT'
Gallery Label
British Galleries: The coffin shape of this locket tells us that it was made to commemorate a death. The initials 'GMC' were almost certainly those of the person who had died, and 5 April 1782 the date of his or her death. The locket might have held a lock of hair or have been used as a snuff box.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Lt. Col. G. B. Croft-Lyons Bequest
Object history
Lt-Col George Babington Croft Lyons George Babington Croft Lyons was an antiquary and collector who loaned, and later bequeathed, 978 objects (ceramics, sculpture, metalwork (particularly silver and pewter), textiles and woodwork) and 391 photographic negatives to the Museum. George Babington Croft Lyons was born on 15 September 1855. Nothing is known of his early life. On 23 May 1874 he was promoted to Lieutenant with the Essex Rifles. He was admitted Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, London, on 7 January 1904 and served on its Executive Council from 1908 to 1926; he was a Vice-President from 1917 to 1921. Croft Lyons was also actively involved with the Burlington Fine Arts Club, publishing a number of articles in the Burlington Magazine. Like his friend, George Salting, when Croft Lyons’s collection outgrew his house in Neville Street, Kensington, he loaned works for exhibition at the South Kensington Museum; these included ceramics, sculpture, metalwork (particularly silver and pewter), textiles and woodwork. Croft Lyons died in London on 22 June 1926, aged 71. He bequeathed to the Museum all the objects currently exhibited on loan (these amounted to 978 objects and 391 photographic negatives) together with ‘ten other objects to be selected from the works of art remaining in his house so far as these are not already disposed of by specific bequests’. The British Museum, National Gallery and Birmingham Art Gallery were also beneficiaries of Croft Lyons’ bequest.

Summary
Object Type
This locket in the shape of a coffin is an example of mourning jewellery. It may have been made specially for the period of mourning. This was a common practice, and wills might specify a sum of money to buy rings or other jewellery for the mourners. These items often included the initials and date of death of the deceased, with perhaps a special compartment to store hair from the dead person.

Time
Mourning jewellery may have evolved from the impersonal memento mori jewellery that had been used in the past. Memento mori ( 'Be mindful of death') is the term for the inclusion of a symbol of death into the design of an art object or jewel as a reminder of life's transience. Such jewellery was found all over Europe, with skulls, skeletons and coffins used to ornament rings and pendants. The Torre Abbey jewel of 1540-1550 (museum no. 3581-1856) is an example of such a pendant.

By the mid 17th century mourning jewellery commemorating the death of a specific person, using the same symbols, was becoming more common. Later jewellery used sentimental motifs such as a woman weeping at a tomb or a broken column to express sorrow and loss. By the early 19th century, mourning had become an elaborate ritual, with specific clothing and social behaviour required for a particular length of time.
Collection
Accession Number
M.728-1926

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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