Bizarre jewelry

‘Cartesian Devil’ brooch by Peter Vermandere

‘Herkules and Kakus’ pendant. Paris, approx. 1850

The central positioning of irregularly formed pearls in jewels has a tradition dating back centuries: in Mannerism they often represented the limbs of fantastic creatures or other figures. Often executed with gold enamel and gemstones, the results were captivating items of jewelry. In the 16th century pendants in the form of a recess were very popular at the royal courts. Within this framework, baroque pearls were used imaginatively as elements within figurines. These mannerist role models were drawn on and reproduced very skillfully throughout the 19th century. In this pendant from Paris, dated around 1850 and fashioned from gold, translucent enamel, pearls and rubies, Hercules, the son of Zeus and Alcmena, fights with the huge Kakus. The piece has a height of 9.5 cm.

The contemporary Belgian jewelry artist Peter Vermandere has also had a long fascination with these irregular beauties of the seas. His items of jewelry are humorous, bizarre interpretations of a historic style that, as we can see, is by no means outdated. Made from silver and gold with spessartine garnets, his Cartesian Devil brooch shows a gnome-like figure reminiscent of Mephisto. In contrast to many of his other works, the Baroque pearl is not so much the ‘body’ part of the brooch, but more “some kind of parasitic/symbiotic growth”, as the artist puts it. And although Peter Vermandere views the jewelry of past eras as kitschy and overloaded, he is not afraid to draw inspiration from their imaginative opulence. In the process completing the circle with the imaginative figures of the Baroque age.