I talk a fair bit on here about stuff that reminds me of Marie Antoinette so it’s a rare pleasure to feature the genuine article thanks to the Ruby Lane online antique shop, which is based not too far away in Gloucestershire.
The 1.5 inch engravings depict two separate constitutional depictions, English and French. The English one is a “urne mysterieuse” optical illusion or puzzle. These were very popular during the 18th century. You may think that you are looking at an urn but look carefully at the white negative space. You will also see a profiled silhouette of Queen Charlotte to the left of the middle of the urn and George III to the right hand side. This idea was later known as the Rubin Vase illusion during the 19th century. The urn is hand colored with a sepia tone ink. We see the English crown radiating to the top, the Scottish thistle to the left and the English rose to the right, both surrounded by English Oak leaves. All ordered and resplendent with superb detail considering its miniature form.
The other miniature has a similar optical illusion or figure/ground reversal seen in the negative space. But this scene is much more chaotic. This time silhouette profiles of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI of France. Their images can be seen either side of a ferocious Hydra, a water snake like creature with many heads from Greek mythology. This Hydra has torn through the French monarchy; see the divided crown falling to the floor. The fleur de lys, the famous symbol of the House of Bourbon, France is about to be swallowed! A sword at the bottom of the engraving has sliced through a back scratcher. Possibly a satirical jibe at the French King’s alleged lack of stamina or a slur on the French fashion for huge wigs which with the 18th century poor hygiene were often full of lice!
How amazing! They are a bit out of my price range, alas but I think they are very cool.
I’m also very taken with this gorgeous eighteenth century purple silk muff. How cute and just look at that embroidery.
I can think of quite a few people who’d like to get their mitts on this Charles II coin as well…
There’s lots of pretty collectibles on the Ruby Lane site actually – go and see!