8 Annotations

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Queen Henrietta Maria owned probably the most famous pair of pearl earrings ever. Throughout history, legendary jewels have disappeared because of theft, wars and revolution, or reset until they bear no resemblance to their original design. But her magnificent pair of earrings survive today with pearls and diamonds intact, and a story to match:

Marie de' Medici (1575-1642), the Italian princess who left her native Florence to wed the French king, Henry IV (1552-1610) had them as part of her dowery jewelry.

The de' Medici family was old, powerful and wealthy, and the jewels Marie wore astonished the French court. At this time, pearls were the most valuable of precious gems, rare accidents of nature acquired only at great risk and cost. The two almost perfectly-matched droplet pearls were the new queen's favorite pair of pendant earrings, and were of a quality not been seen before in Paris. (You can see many ladies in 17th century portraits wearing what look like pearls, but most of them were actually coated glass. Marie's were real.) Peter Paul Rubens painted her wearing them in a 1616 portrait.

When Henry IV and Marie de' Medici's youngest daughter, princess Henriette Marie (1609-1699), married our Charles I in 1625, Marie gave the pendant pearl earrings to her as a wedding gift.

Queen Henriette Marie was portrayed many times wearing the earrings, including in a portrait of her as a young wife, painted in 1632 by Sir Anthony van Dyck. But they brought the English queen no luck, as we know. The civil war forced Henriette Marie to flee the country in 1644.

In exile, Queen Henrietta Marie was forced to gradually sell all her jewels, first to help support King Charles' army, and as a widow to keep herself from poverty. As mementos of happier times, the fabulous pearl earrings were among the last jewels to go, finally being purchased by her nephew, Louis XIV (1638-1714) in 1657.

The 19-year-old Louis had fallen desperately in love with 18-year-old Marie Mancini (1639-1715), the Italian niece of Cardinal Jules Mazarin. At first the match was approved by the cardinal and Louis XIV's widowed mother, so Louis presented the pearl earrings to Marie as a token of his intentions. Marie's portrait shows her wearing the pearls along with flowers in her hair.

But politics got in the way, the match was broken off, Louis obediently wed the Spanish Infanta Maria Theresa, and Marie Mancini went on to marry the Roman Prince, Lorenzo Onofrio Colonna.

But Marie Mancini kept the pearls! The earrings were so associated with her that they became known as the Mancini Pearls.

There is no record of what happened to the earrings for almost 250 years, until they appeared at Christie's auction house in New York in October, 1979. They were sold to a private collector for $253,000. I'd love to know where they are today.

Pictures and more info at https://www.internetstones.com/ma…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Were did all these pearls come from?

According to:

Pirates love treasure, as we remember:

The first royal Aztec treasures that Cortés looted were shipped across the Atlantic in 1521. But they never reached Madrid. The treasures, which included gold and silver jewelry, pearls, jade, and three live jaguars, were intercepted and looted by a flotilla of French privateers led by an Italian variously named Jean Fleury, Giovanni da Verrazano, Juan Florentino, or El Francés (when sailing with French financing).

Thus the first real treasure of the New World arrived at the royal court in Paris: half a tonne of gold, 300 kilograms of pearls, and an emerald as large as a man's fist.

Although Jean Fleury's ships were legally warships acting for the King of France during wartime, the Spanish executed him as a pirate when they captured him in 1527.

Later, in Manila, the Spanish and Chinese merchants made fortunes as Spanish (New World) silver was traded for spices, silks, ivory, pearls, jade, gold, jewels, and other luxury goods, most of them from China. The Chinese trade flourished late in the 16th century, so the streets of Manila became paved with granite cobble-stones brought from China as ballast in Chinese and Spanish ships.

It didn't take many generations for the wealth of South America to be transferred to China. Spain, the wealthiest country in the world, lost it all.

The Chinese always have been very good at supplying luxury goods people want to consume.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The word baroque derives from the idea of an “imperfect pearl”: something lustrous with a beguiling flaw.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

In 1665 or thereabouts, Johannes Vermeer painted Girl with a Pearl Earring -- or did he?

Yes, he painted the masterpiece known as Girl with a Pearl Earring, but look closely again. Think you see a pearl dangling exotically from her ear? The bauble is but a pigment of your imagination. With a flick of the wrist and two expert dabs of paint, Vermeer tricks your visual cortices of the occipital lobes into seeing a pearl. Squint as much as you like -- there is no loop connecting the ornament to her ear.

Vermeer’s precious gem is an optical illusion, which reflects back on ourselves, and our own illusory presence in the world.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Before the development of cultured pearls, all pearls were natural. These treasures were found only by accident, and at considerable peril. Natural pearls had great mystique, luminous beauty as well as value, which made them the favorites of queens – and kings.

One of the most famous pearls of the 17th century belonged to King Charles (1600-1649). The origins of this single pearl earring are unknown, but Charles is first shown wearing it in a miniature as the 15-year-old Prince of Wales.

King Charles' large teardrop-shaped pearl – a rare and desired shape – was made into a dangling earring with a tiny gold crown as the cap, topped with an orb and cross: most fitting for a future king.

Since Queen Elizabeth's reign, fashionable English gentlemen had worn single earrings as a sign of courtly swagger and bravado, qualities the young prince was woefully lacking: Charles was slight and short (only 5'3"), he limped from childhood rickets, he stammered, and he was acutely shy. Perhaps the sizable pearl gave him some confidence that nature had not endowed.

Prince Charles wore the pearl for the rest of his life, and it appears in nearly every portrait of him, including one of him dressed casually for hunting. He developed into a style-conscious king who patronized the arts, and the single earring suited him as a romantic, cavalier king.

While King Charles was a excellent patron of the arts, he was a wretched king to his people, stubbornly unable to reconcile his subjects' desires and expectations with his own.

After barely surviving two civil wars, King Charles was captured by Parliament, tried, and found guilty of high treason. He was executed on 30 January 1649, beheaded with a single stroke of the ax on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House. He was wearing the pearl earring at his death.

Even when committing regicide, this was Puritan England.
King Charles' earring was respectfully removed when his head was sewn back on his body in preparation for burial. The earring was sent as to his oldest daughter, Mary, the Princess Royal and Princess of Orange (1631-1660), as Charles had requested.

After Mary's death in 1660 the earring found its way to one of the late king's most loyal supporters, William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle (1592-1672), who had also been entrusted with the education of the king's eldest son, the future Charles II.

The earring remains in the collection of the Duke of Newcastle at his home, Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire, now owned by the Dukes of Portland.

For more information, see http://hoydensandfirebrands.blogs…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Cosmo, the future Grand Duke of Turin, visited London in the Spring of 1669. English women's love of pearls was particularly worthy of mention in his Journal:


"Their style of dressing is very elegant, entirely after the French fashion, and they take more pride in rich clothes (which are worn of value even by women of the lowest rank) than in precious jewels, all their expense in the latter article being confined to pearls, of which they wear necklaces of very great price; consequently, pearls are in great esteem and request in England."



His highness, Cosmo, must be considered only as a traveler. Under his direction, the narrator of the records was Count Lorenzo Magalotti, afterwards Secretary to the Academy del Cimento, and one of the most learned and eminent characters of the court of Ferdinand II.

Third Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The Baroque movement of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries was named for the Pearl. The Portuguese brought back thousands of them from the Far East, and their name for "pearl" was corrupted into Baroque, and means a mis-shapened pearl.

I learned this from Episode 1 of "The Baroque Tradition: From St. Peter's to St. Paul's" -- hosted by Waldemar Januszczak -- but I recommend watching the whole series!

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


  • Sep