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A very fine and exceedingly rare mid-17th century low-karat gold “Stuart crystal” memorial slide. Such pieces were secretly worn by loyalists to mourn the deposed and executed King Charles I in 1649. Eventually, they were used to mourn other deaths, as well as to celebrate betrothals and weddings. This is a particularly fine example, combining a crystal-encased miniature portrait of a well-nourished lady, regally dressed in a gown of red velvet with gold embroidery and ermine fur trim. A black mourning veil with a widow’s peak covers her hair. Four rose-cut crystals appear at the corners. Two of them enclose a gold wirework crown over a bed of woven hair, while the other two feature gold wirework entwined “CC” ciphers over a hair background. Slides such as this were threaded onto a wide black ribbon and worn on the wrist. They are generally oval or rectangular with rounded corners, but the addition of the four “jeweled” corners is most unusual. Since the portrait miniature depicts a woman in mourning, it is most likely that the image is of the slide’s owner herself rather than the deceased. The entwined “CC” cipher used in conjunction with the crown imagery suggests that this slide is an early piece that actually commemorated the death of King Charles rather than a later piece memorializing someone in the lady's family. To the casual observer it would have looked only like a miniature portrait with decorative corners, allowing the lady to express her secret grief without unfortunate political consequences for herself.
Origin: England, ca. 1650. Condition: excellent, vivid coloring to the portrait, no losses or water damage to the wirework or hair. Size: 1-1/8” x 1-1/16”.