Thursday 28 September, 2017

#FettercairnJewel

An exceptionally rare Scottish Renaissance jewel went on permanent display at the National Museum of Scotland today. The 16th century enamelled gold pendant locket is set with an almandine garnet and dates to c.1570-80. An exquisite work of art, the Fettercairn Jewel is also a key to understanding the wider culture of the Scottish Renaissance.

It was recently acquired thanks to the generosity of Art Fund, The National Lottery and the National Museums Scotland Charitable Trust. The jewel was today installed in the Kingdom of the Scots gallery at the Museum by David Forsyth, Principal Curator at National Museums Scotland and Gillian Findlay, member of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Scotland Committee.

The pendant was sold at auction alongside numerous works of art and artefacts from the private collection of the Forbes family whose ancestral home is Fettercairn House in Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire. The Forbes of Pitsligo descend from Sir William Forbes, brother of Alexander Forbes, first Lord Forbes. Both branches were prominent, elite families in the 16th century. The first Lord Forbes married the granddaughter of King Robert II of Scotland and daughter of Douglas, earl of Angus.

The Jewel is oval in form with a scroll fastening at the top to hold a gold ring. It would have been worn as a pendant on a chain and probably had a pearl or precious stone hanging beneath it. The image on the reverse centres on the figure of Mercury, wearing a winged helmet and striding from left to right. To the right of Mercury’s feet sits a white dog looking upwards, and to the left a vase containing a striking arrangement of vibrant flowers. An urban scene sits in the background, with an array of exotic and domestic birds and insects flying over clusters of buildings. The enormous rectangular almandine garnet on the front of the piece is set prominently amongst a decorative enamelled scheme to enhance its beauty.

During the Scottish Renaissance there was a practice of extensive court gift-giving of jewellery and a vast amount of jewellery was gifted each year by the royal family to Scotland’s elite families. National Museums Scotland will investigate potential links between the Jewel and the Scottish royal court. It will also investigate the potential of its links to the Darnley Jewel, now in the Royal Collection, commissioned at some time between 1564 and 1571 by Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox, for her husband Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox and Regent of Scotland, and owned by both Horace Walpole and Queen Victoria. It is possible that the Fettercairn Jewel was made by the same jeweller in Edinburgh.

National Museums Scotland has the best collection of Scottish Renaissance material in the world. The bulk of surviving material tends to be items produced in larger quantities – arms and armour, tableware and architectural fragments. Personal and individual objects are much rarer due to their bespoke production and their low survival rates. Jewellery is very rare as, historically, materials were re-used as time passed by; objects like the Fettercairn Jewel are almost unique.

David Forsyth, Principal Curator, Scottish History and Archaeology Department at National Museums Scotland said,

“I am delighted that this important object is now on display for our visitors to enjoy. It significantly enhances the national collections and offers the opportunity for new insights into the Renaissance period in Scotland. We are hugely grateful to the Art Fund and The National Lottery for making this important acquisition possible.”

Gillian Findlay member of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Scotland Committee said:

“This beautiful pendant has travelled intact through over 500 years of history. It will have been worn with pride and care by many interesting people through the centuries. I am delighted, that thanks to players of The National Lottery, we can continue to care for it and take pride in its heritage. It is sure to unlock some fascinating insights to Scottish Renaissance history.”

Further information and images from Alice Wyllie, Bruce Blacklaw or Susan Gray, National Museums Scotland Press Office on 0131 247 4288 or a.wyllie@nms.ac.uk

Notes to Editors

  1. National Museums Scotland is one of the leading museum groups in the UK and Europe and it looks after collections of national and international importance. The organisation provides loans, partnerships, research and training in Scotland and internationally. Our individual museums are the National Museum of Scotland, the National Museum of Flight, the National Museum of Rural Life and the National War Museum. The National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh houses conservation and research facilities as well as collections not currently on display.
  2. The National Museum of Scotland is the most popular museum in the country outside of London (source: Association of Leading Visitor Attractions). The National Museum of Scotland was awarded ‘Gold’ Level Green Tourism Visitor Attraction status in 2016.
  3. The Fettercairn Jewel was acquired at auction and National Museums Scotland was represented at auction by Geoffrey Munn, jewellery specialist for BBC television’s Antiques Roadshow.
  4. Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years alone Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. It also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators. Art Fund is independently funded, with the core of its income provided by 123,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions and subscription to Art Quarterly magazine. In addition to grant-giving, Art Fund’s support for museums includes Art Fund Museum of the Year (won by the V&A, London, in 2016) and a range of digital platforms. Find out more about Art Fund and the National Art Pass at http://www.artfund.org/. For further information please contact Madeline Adeane, Press Relations Manager, madeane@artfund.org / 0207 225 4804
  5. From the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) use National Lottery players' money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about. http://www.hlf.org.uk/. @heritagelottery. For further information please contact Shiona Mackay on 01786 870638/07779 142890 (shionamackay1@btinternet.com) or Jon Williams on 0207 591 6035 (jonw@hlf.org.uk)

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