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[Tidbits] The Canning Jewel


It’s a pendant that harkens back to the late Renaissance period…
credited by some to be the work of Benvenuto Cellini. However…
here’s the conundrum. There are some that believe that the Canning
Jewel originated in the 1580’s in which case Cellini… who died in
1571… could not have made it. Unless he knew something we don’t.
But bah I say… why should we tinker with such trivialities. Let the
experts figure it out while we enjoy this small masterpiece.

It is a sculpture of a merman holding a raised sword in a victory
stance over what appears to be a beheaded sea dragon. Are there parts
of the legend of Saint George and the Dragon that hearken back to a
different mythological origin at work here I wonder? Here’s what it
is: The Saint George narrative takes place in Libya and our little
merman has its origins in Italy and then India… a separation of a
tad under 4000 miles. A small incidental I think we should ignore as
facts very often tend to intrude upon our belief systems and should
therefore be avoided as much as possible. I say Saint George may
well have been a merman… or else the coincidence is a tad too odd.

As to the pearls It was not uncommon for Renaissance jewelers to use
baroque pearls in the creation of sculptured pendants. From the 15th
to the 17th centuries large quantities of baroque pearls had been
imported into Europe from areas like the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea
and the Gulf of Mannar as well Venezuela and Colombia and Panama.
Unfortunately, the demand for these pearls were low due to their odd
shapes. They did now fit into the available jewelry of the day. And
so… the Jewelry Craftsman stepped in. He was the creator… the
idea man… and the executor of innovative jewels using the new
materials at hand. The results were stunning. No computers and
computer design aided software back then. All hand made. And most of
it stunning.

Which bring us… by way of a super-segue… to the Medicis. While
the belief is that a Medici ruler gave a Moghul emperor the
pendant… the sad thing is that no one knows the identity of either
the Medici or the Moghul. And here’s another little kicker … the
Medicis in their origins were nothing more than part of the
bourgeoisie and achieved aristocratic status only after its founder
amassed great wealth and subsequently became the ruler of Florence.
So… does this bit of negate the possibility that the
transfer was indeed made from them to them. Nah. Everyone knows that
money and power make rulers. And the Medicis did become great patrons
of the arts.

Which brings us to how the Canning Jewel got its name. It appears
that after the fall of Delhi in 1857 the then Viscount Canning came
into its possession by the powers vested in him as the Governor
General of India either as a gift or by appropriation. Some say
one… some say the other. I say an appropriated gift is an
appropriate gift and let the theories fall where they may. And that
my friends… is that.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits. Click it… and you will see represented on our
pages… The Canning Jewel… a work of the highest caliber.

And there ya have it. That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark