Jewellery - 27 Jan 2011


A late 18th Century rare double sided glazed pendant gold locket

£2,000 - £5,000 £44,000

A late 18th Century rare double sided glazed pendant gold locket, mounted obverse with pale coloured hair tied as a stylised bow set with seed pearls and further decorated with a gold and pearl anchor motif and, in the centre, the initial N, and date 1st Aug. 1798, set in gold and enamel within a rope work and seed pearl border ; and mounted reverse with a simple tied spray of auburn hair set with seed pearls, English, circa 1800, 8cm high (total) The initial N; Naval motifs and associated date suggest that the pale coloured spray of hair on the obverse of the locket belonged to Admiral Lord Nelson and that it was mounted shortly after his great victory at the battle of the Nile on 1 August 1798. The use of a single initial also indicates that the hair was mounted before the admiral was created Duke of Bronte by King Ferdinand of Naples in August 1799. Following his elevation to the Dukedom, Nelson invariably used the dual initials NB in correspondence and to decorate his possessions. Between August 1798 and August 1799, Nelson remained in Naples as a guest of the British Envoy, Sir William Hamilton. During this period, Nelson developed a strong attachment to Emma, Lady Hamilton which led, famously, to their full blown and scandalous love affair. This promotes the intriguing and romantic possibility that the darker, auburn coloured hair on the reverse of the locket belonged to Emma Hamilton. It closely matches the description and other known surviving hair of Emma's, notably a lock mounted behind a miniature of her carried by Nelson to his death at Trafalgar and now in the collection of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. No other double sided hair locket of this type is known to be associated with Nelson and Emma, Lady Hamilton. Moreover, the early date and decoration suggests that it is not a memento mori but a presentation gift to an admirer or associate whilst they were both in Naples and before their return to England together in 1800. If such, it is a unique relic of an enduring love affair.

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