Pomander thumbnail 1
Pomander 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

Pomander

ca. 1350 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This pomander opens up into four small segments which would originally have held spices or perfumes. The pomander itself would hang from a long belt or girdle which encircled the waist or hips. Romantic inscriptions and imagery on girdles show that they were sometimes used as courtship or marriage gifts. Medieval Jewish marriage ceremonies included a formal exchange of girdles between spouses and Czech bridegrooms around 1500 are recorded as giving girdles to their new wives. This pomander may also have been a gift of love: the inscriptions on the internal segments record the story of the Judgment of Paris in which Paris was required to choose which of the three goddesses, Juno, Venus and Minerva was the most beautiful. The result of his choice set the Trojan War in motion.



object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 3 parts.

  • Pomander
  • Segment
  • Lid
Materials and Techniques
Partially gilded silver, niello
Brief Description
Pomander of partially gilded silver and niello, made in Italy, 1300-1400
Physical Description
Pomander shaped as an apple, of silver, silver gilt, and niello. The sections of the body of the pomander are held in place by a pin with a screw section at the top, the whole attached to an octagonal gadrooned head to which is hinged a quatrefoil handle. Inscriptions run around the edge of each section relating to the Judgement of Paris, the interior and exterior decoration of scrolling foliage and geometric patterns.
Dimensions
  • Height: 6.5cm
  • Width: 4cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • Segment 1: Cover: IUNO Border: PRO. POMI. DONO. PARIS. AGE(?). PAREM. TIBI. DONO
  • Segment 2: Cover: VENVS Border: SENSV. DIVES. ERIS. SI. ME. DITEI. DECVS. ERIS.
  • Segment 3: Cover: PALAS Border: SE. DANT. REGNA. REGI. MICHI. SI. FA(V)EAS. TIBI. REGI
  • Segment 4: Cover: PARIS Border: EST. MAGIS. ORE. VENUSTA. CAUSA. PATET. IUSTA. VEN.
Gallery Label
POMANDER with the Judgement of Paris About 1380-1420 This may have been a love token, which a woman would wear hanging from a chain at her waist. The segments refer to the Judgement of Paris, when he had to decide which of the goddesses Juno, Venus and Minerva was the most beautiful. Paris chose Venus, here given the words: "Venus is the loveliest, her claim is clearly just". Italy Partially gilded silver, decorated with niello (black composition) Francis Reubell Bryan Bequest
Credit line
Bequeathed by Francis Reubell Bryan
Object history
Londesborough and Wyndham Cook Collections, Francis Reubell Bryan Bequest funds used to purchase the pomander from Durlacher Bros. New Bond Street. Shown in Leeds Exhibition, 1868.

Sold at the Humphrey W. Cook sale at Christies', July 10 1925, lot 434. Sold at the Londesborough Sale at Christies', 8 May 1884, lot 137 (wrongly described as from the Bernal collection).
Summary
This pomander opens up into four small segments which would originally have held spices or perfumes. The pomander itself would hang from a long belt or girdle which encircled the waist or hips. Romantic inscriptions and imagery on girdles show that they were sometimes used as courtship or marriage gifts. Medieval Jewish marriage ceremonies included a formal exchange of girdles between spouses and Czech bridegrooms around 1500 are recorded as giving girdles to their new wives. This pomander may also have been a gift of love: the inscriptions on the internal segments record the story of the Judgment of Paris in which Paris was required to choose which of the three goddesses, Juno, Venus and Minerva was the most beautiful. The result of his choice set the Trojan War in motion.



Bibliographic References
  • Campbell, Marian, Medieval Jewellery in Europe 1100-1500, London, V&A Publishing, 2009, p.68, fig.68
  • Lightbown, R.W., Mediaeval European Jewellery , London 1992, cat. no. 84, pp. 335-7, 529 -30
  • Schiedlausky, G., Vom Bisamapfel zur Vinaigrette: Zur Geschichte der Duftgefässe. Kunst und Antiquitäten, 4, 1985, pp. 28-38.
  • Ajmar-Wollheim, Marta and Dennis, Flora At Home in Renaissance Italy, London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 2006, cat. 197, pp. 185 and 364
  • Brilliant, Virginia. 'Pomander'. Catalogue entry in A Feast for the Senses: Art and Experience in Medieval Europe, ed. Martina Bagnoli. Catalogue of the exhibition held at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, October 16, 2016 - January 8, 2017 and at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, February 4 - April 30, 2017. Baltimore: The Walters Art Museum / New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. ISBN 9780300222951
  • Catalogue of the Art Collections of Mr Wyndham H. Cook, 1905, p. 97, no. 446
  • A. H. Church, The Portfolio, Vol. XVII, p. 166, fig. 2
  • Burlington Fine Arts Club Loan Exhibition Catalogue, 1901, p. 181, cat. no. 9, pl. XX
Collection
Accession Number
M.205:1 to 3-1925

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record createdDecember 15, 1999
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