Four powerful female figures one common element: jewellery!
I had the luck to be born a woman! Never once during my life have I wished it had been different because we women are strong, clever, resilient, hardworking, and beautiful creatures.
Of course, being a woman in the 21st century is far easier than being one during previous centuries. We have more freedoms now, more rights. For the most part we can dress however we want, go wherever we want, be whatever we want if only we believe in ourselves! We live in the years of ‘You go girl!’ and I could not be more appreciative of my life and century.
However, things haven’t always been that easy for women. They had to fight with all they’ve had to win their place among society and the world. Some female figures did achieve that and luckily for us there was people that not only recorded their stories but also chose to immortalize them in paintings.
But what do the next four paintings I am going to talk to you about have in common?
Well you probably already know because of the “spoiler alert” in the title.
Why jewellery you may ask? What is the importance? Aren’t they just one more trinket to add beauty to the work of art? The answer is no! Of course, they are beautiful but throughout the centuries jewellery came to symbolize power, status, and wealth and if you continue to read this article, I believe you will agree.
Let us start with our first painting. This work of art presents a biblical female figure that might not be known for her kindness, but she is definitely remembered for her power. And our brand owes her itsname.
The famous stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, that with her dance convinced her stepfather to behead John the Baptist. Her story and power of persuasion has inspired art, music, and literature for centuries. Among the many paintings of Salome are those of Gustave Moreau, the dominant artistic figure of the French Symbolist movement.
Salome Dancing before Herod - Gustave Moreau, 18760
Take a close look to Salome. You will see her whole body and head is adorned by countless pieces of jewellery. We can observe diamonds and pearls flowing like a river on her figure, silver and gold bracelets on her hands and a grandiose necklace on her neck.
Salome in the story is not only a princess but a powerful woman as well. Many call her a seductress but the truth is she is one of the few biblical female figures that shows to have her own opinion and is not punished for it.
Moreau as a symbolist could have chosen to give her that bejeweled appearance to symbolize her power and status. Her strong female presence in a completely male powered world.
We now continue with another strong female figure that is definitely closer to home and not as mythical as the previous one. A queen that left her mark in the English throne since the age of 18. Queen Victoria.
She was Queen of the largest empire in history and until 2015 was the longest reigning British monarch only to be surpassed by Queen Elisabeth the II. She became a national icon who was identified with strict standards of personal morality.
She is regarded as one of the most painted rulers in history and had portraits of her commissioned during every period of her life.
This one is one of my favourite portraits of her - for two reasons. Firstly, it does not only depict a woman but was also painted by a woman. Lady Abercromby, a lady-in-waiting of the Queen, that had the honour of painting the first official portrait of her Majesty for the National Portrait Gallery. The second reason is the fact that it is said Queen Victoria herself loved this painting as it depicts the woman behind the power, thus her true self, not the crown.
I could not agree more.
Looking closer to the painting lets focus on the jewellery. We see strands of pearls around her Majesty’s neck, beautiful earrings, and a bracelet on her arm. If you consider the fact that this portrait shows the woman behind the power in my opinion jewellery, for Queen Victoria, was not only part of a royal attire but something that escorted her everyday appearance. It not only symbolized her immense power as a ruler and a woman but also her humanity and fragility.
Leaving the royal households, we are going to be introduced to a very famous painting, of great historic value. Once known as the Mona Lisa of Austria the portrait of this woman has been fought over and is considered maybe the object of the greatest court fight in history for the ownership of a painting.
It is the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I by Gustave Klimt.
Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I (Woman in Gold) – Gustave Klimt
Adele was the wife of a wealthy Jewish banker and sugar producer. The couple shared a great love for art and Adele being socially well-connected always filled their home with writers, politicians, and intellectuals.
I can literally write pages and pages about this painting, the great fight over it and the fact that today it has become the greatest symbol of restitution of art plundered by the Nazis but for now let’s focus on a small detail of it. The stunning diamond necklace around the neck of Adele.
Klimt always had his personal style in painting. The use of gold leaves and patterns. In this painting we have no idea what the dress Adele actually wore looked like. The only piece that has been depicted in truth other than her face is the necklace. A symbol of her wealth and power not only in terms of money but also of knowledge and style. Adele was a strong dominant woman of the Austrian Jewish society and I personally believe although Klimt used his typical technique to immortalize her, he also chose to add the unique treat of the necklace to make this portrait different to others.
Last but not least comes a painting of a woman that we do not even know her last name. However, her portrait is considered to be a powerful symbol of not only female power but also race equality.
This painting exhibited today in the museum of museums, the Louvre, is maybe one of the few of that time depicting a person of colour. Painted by Marie-Guillemine Benoist this painting was created to celebrate the abolition of slavery.
This painting strongly reminds me of Vermeer’s famous masterpiece as both show a simple servant girl becoming the muse of an artist. Also, both paintings have the treat of an earring. Once more a jewel comes to adorn the simple dressed figure of a, not wealthy or aristocratic, female maybe to show that power does not come from money but from spirit!
I believe this painting’s strong message has reached the 21st century and makes it more relevant than ever.
Concluding this article, I think you will agree with me that women have left a strong mark in our world and we should be proud of our achievements. So, now go on, wear your most statement jewellery, declare your female power and conquer the world!
Written by Evdokia Samara