Antique Victorian 1840s mourning brooch with butterfly motif, hairwork, and engraving

A remarkable Early Victorian (1840s) English mourning brooch with combined hairwork for Edward and Dorothy Coode, a couple who died in 1848 and 1845, respectively. This brooch is dedicated to the memory of their lives and was likely worn by a descendent. The shape, size, and style of the brooch is representative of the period but it has details that elevate it beyond a "typical" example of mourning jewelry from the 1840s, notably the symbol of the butterfly.

We seldom see butterfly imagery in mourning jewelry and seeing both the chrysalis and the butterfly here is . . . well . . . remarkable. In mourning jewelry the butterfly clearly represents the human spirit as it passes through different phases of transformation: the caterpillar (life), the chrysalis (death), and the butterfly (resurrection). Many cultures, both ancient and modern (Egyptian, Minoan, Aztec, German, Irish . .  ), believe that the butterfly represents the human spirit and this was certainly true for the Victorians during the 19th century. During the Neoclassical period, the Victorians likely associated the butterfly with the Greek Goddess of the soul, Psyche. They would also have certainly drawn parallels with the life of Christ and the teachings of Christianity. 

The brooch itself is done in 12K gold with a Rococo frame filled in with black enamel. The center of the brooch features a carved and polished piece of sardonyx - displaying the chrysalis and butterfly - trimmed in pearls. The verso reveals an oval compartment fitted with plaited hairwork of silvery blonde and brown - presumably the hair of Edward and Dorothy woven together. The inscription above and below the hairwork reads "Edward Coode / Dorothy Coode / Obt. 10th April 1848 AE 82 / Died 27th April 1845 Aged 78." This couple was born in the 1760s and lived out their lives during the Great Industrial Revolution - the England of Charles Dickens. It is astonishing to think of the world that they lived in - one of unthinkable poverty, inequality, and injustice for so many people - and the relative privilege they must have enjoyed, given the quality of this piece of jewelry. 

Tube hinge and "c" clasp. 

Measurements: 1 1/2 x 1 3/8," just over 16 grams
Era: Early Victorian, 1840s (1845-1848)
Markings: Memorial dedication on verso as indicated above. Tests for 12K gold.

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