Helyar Jewel thumbnail 1
Helyar Jewel thumbnail 2
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images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Helyar Jewel

Pendant
1650-1670 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

The Helyar Jewel is an exceptionally fine memorial jewel for Charles I, whose portrait is concealed by a hinged cover in the floral enamel back. By tradition it descended in the Helyar family, supporters of the Crown in the seventeenth century. The front of the jewel is set with a large cabochon emerald. Remarkably few seventeenth-century items of jewellery with large gemstones have escaped re-cycling in Britain, because the attraction of re-setting gems when fashion changed led to the destruction of old mounts. It may be that the purpose of the jewel, a memorial to Charles, 'King and Martyr', executed in 1649, aided its survival.

Many similar portraits of Charles I are mounted in royalist jewellery, particularly rings. Jewellery of this kind is thought to have been made both before the restoration of the Stuarts in 1660 and afterwards. In this case it seems probable - but not proven - that the concealment of this portrait under a lid was not simply to protect the painting, but a prudent device during the period of the Commonwealth in the 1650s when open support for the monarchy would have been inadvisable. There are rings with similar portraits of Charles I under lids, including one in the British Museum (AF1439) which has a diamond on the exterior of the lid.

The floral enamelling on the back is characteristic of the middle and later seventeenth century. The technique of painting in coloured enamel on a white ground was widely adopted, following the example in the 1630s of Jean Toutin and his contemporaries in Blois and Paris.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gold painted in enamel
Brief Description
Helyar Jewel, gold, emerald, pearl, enamelled with flowers and a portrait of Charles 1, England, 1650-70.
Physical Description
Gold pendant, mounted with a cabochon emerald on the front and a pendent pearl. The back is painted in enamel with polychrome flowers, including tulips and forget-me-nots, arranged symmetrically around a central flower, on a white ground with black scrolls and black circles of diminishing size (a vestige of peapod ornament). In the centre of the back an oval, hinged lid lifts to reveal an enamelled full-face head-and-shoulders portrait of Charles I on a blue ground in a black frame with white dots. The reverse of the lid is enamelled in blue. A loop on the top of the pendant is enamelled in black and white. It forms the largest loop in a black and white enamelled spiral which runs in diminishing loops to left and right. These continue as small tongues, enamelled in black and white, which run around the circumference of the pendant. A gold suspension ring is attached to the loop on top of the pendant. A baroque pearl pierced with a gold rod is suspended from the bottom of the pendant.
Dimensions
  • Height: 47mm
  • Width: 22mm
Credit line
Purchased through the generosity of William and Judith Bollinger
Object history
By family tradition the jewel descended in the Helyar family from the seventeenth century. The Helyar family were supporters of the Crown. Archdeacon William Helyar was beaten up while trying to stop the desecration of Exeter Cathedral in 1643. He was forced to make loans to Parliament of £800 and £200 in 1643, and died in 1645. His eldest son, Henry, died in 1634, and his heir was his grandson, Colonel William Helyar, an officer in the Royalist army. Colonel Helyar was in Exeter when it was captured by Parliamentary forces in 1646. He paid a fine to Parliament of £1522 16s. in 1648, and was granted a pardon and the termination of the sequestration of his estate. He took part in the suppression of Monmouth's rebellion in 1685. He owned a plantation in Jamaica about which considerable correspondence survives.



The Helyars and the Heneage family, into whom the Helyars married in 1902, owned Croker Court, Somerset, from 1617 until the mid-twentieth century. The Helyar Jewel was illustrated in an article on Croker Court in Country Life, 2 January 1909 (vol. xxv, pages 18-25; the jewel illustrated on page 24).



On 18 January 1902 Dorothy Margaret Helyar married Lieutenant-Colonel Godfrey Clement Walker-Heneage. She brought to the Heneage family both the Helyar Jewel and Croker Court. Lieutenant-Colonel Walker-Heneage in the same year sold anonymously at Christie's (18 July, lot 121) the Heneage Jewel. His father, Major Clement Walker-Heneage (1831-1901), V.C., had died the previous year. The Heneage Jewel was acquired by J. Pierpont Morgan and, following an auction in London in 1935, was presented to the V&A by Lord Wakefield through the National Art Collections Fund.



For a superbly enamelled locket with naturalistic flowers and peapod elements (black circles of diminishing size) by Henri Toutin, ca. 1640, see Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Inv. Nr. 1590.
Subjects depicted
Summary
The Helyar Jewel is an exceptionally fine memorial jewel for Charles I, whose portrait is concealed by a hinged cover in the floral enamel back. By tradition it descended in the Helyar family, supporters of the Crown in the seventeenth century. The front of the jewel is set with a large cabochon emerald. Remarkably few seventeenth-century items of jewellery with large gemstones have escaped re-cycling in Britain, because the attraction of re-setting gems when fashion changed led to the destruction of old mounts. It may be that the purpose of the jewel, a memorial to Charles, 'King and Martyr', executed in 1649, aided its survival.



Many similar portraits of Charles I are mounted in royalist jewellery, particularly rings. Jewellery of this kind is thought to have been made both before the restoration of the Stuarts in 1660 and afterwards. In this case it seems probable - but not proven - that the concealment of this portrait under a lid was not simply to protect the painting, but a prudent device during the period of the Commonwealth in the 1650s when open support for the monarchy would have been inadvisable. There are rings with similar portraits of Charles I under lids, including one in the British Museum (AF1439) which has a diamond on the exterior of the lid.



The floral enamelling on the back is characteristic of the middle and later seventeenth century. The technique of painting in coloured enamel on a white ground was widely adopted, following the example in the 1630s of Jean Toutin and his contemporaries in Blois and Paris.
Collection
Accession Number
M.9-2015

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record createdFebruary 1, 2011
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