I will be honest, I am a bit of a fan girl over sterling silver British Aesthetic Movement brooches. I also must admit that they are difficult to source and sell very quickly. The only available brooch is the one above. All others have sold.
Aestheticism and decadence shocked the Victorian establishment by challenging traditional values, foregrounding sensuality and promoting artistic, sexual and political experimentation. Woo. And these brooches went to the parties!
According to the Guardian, “The movement started in a small way in the 1860s in the studios and houses of a radical group of artists and designers, including William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. These were angry young reformers who explored new ways of living in defiance of the horrendous design standards of the age as revealed in the 1851 Great Exhibition.”
Pop on one of these gorgeous antique sterling silver brooches and head to the Green Dining Room of the V&A Museum in London for lunch. Soak in the beauty of this movement that was passionate about exposing people to “a style” that was “elaborate, allusive, extravagantly literary, infused with a love of the medieval, going overboard for the exotic and outlandish.” Brooch above now sold.
This large circular pin demonstrates the popularity of nature motifs such as plants and flowers and insects partnered with geometric patterns. A dainty butterfly flits through an imaginary garden of grasses and ferns. The long pin and c-clasp confirms the Victorian period of manufacture and allows the brooch to be securely fastened to a coat or jacket. Now sold.
This gorgeous silver brooch of a chaffinch reflects the symbolic importance of this bird species to the Pre-Raphaelite Rossetti. This brooch offered its wearer opportunity to demonstrate their appreciation and understanding of this artistic movement and Rossetti’s work in particular. Now sold, sorry.
According to Stephanie Graham Pina the chaffinch and other birds feature frequently in many poems and paintings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. "In the late 1860s, after his wife Elizabeth Siddal’s death, Rossetti began to be plagued by health and mental problems. A chaffinch landed on his hand while visiting poet William Bell Scott. Scott was apparently perplexed when Rossetti shared his belief that Lizzie’s spirit had migrated into the bird. Did Rossetti really believe that souls migrate into birds after death? Or was this a new notion, brought on by the stress of his ill health?"
The bird convinced him to exhume his wife and retrieve his poems that he had buried with her. All the cool kids started wearing chaffinches.
Finally, a tiny pin containing a songbird and bamboo branch delicately etched into a simple circular frame highlights the pause and enjoyment this movement encouraged. Also sold.
These brooches apart from the top one are sold but I am on the search for more this summer.
All mistakes or omissions are the author’s own.
Copyright Audra Daws-Knowles 2023
Further reading: Prof. Carolyn Burdett, British Library