An exceedingly rare Art Nouveau 14K yellow gold brooch depicting a Classical priestess of Comus, the Greek god of mirth and frivolity. She wears a toga and her braided hair is surmounted by a tiara. She appears in front of a stained glass rose window--perhaps an acknowledgement of the Catholic religious culture of New Orleans. The quality and shading of the enamels is simply beyond compare. The gold is finished in the slight-matte “Russian finish” often found in higher-quality French Art Nouveau jewels. The back is stamped “14K”.
The back of the brooch is engraved “COMUS 1908”. The Mystick Krewe of Comus is the oldest and most elite of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras clubs. Theirs is the last ball held before Ash Wednesday, and even Rex, King of Mardi Gras, comes to the ball to bow before the head of the Comus Krewe. In the tradition of Mardi Gras balls, every guest must be masked, and none is allowed to dance (or even stand on the floor of the ballroom) until every member of the all-male Krewe has danced with the female guest of his choice. With the assistance of “callers” using a complex numerical code, each Krewemember finds his female guest despite her masked appearance, although she may never know his true identity. Following the dance, the member presents his guest with the Krewe favor. In some years, the favors were relatively inexpensive, but occasionally they were lavish. The 1908 Comus Ball is one of the most famous in Mardi Gras history because of its legendary elegance. This brooch was the official ball favor. The exact number of Comus members is a secret, but is thought to be no more than 100. By extension, one can surmise that no more than 100 of these brooches were ever made.
Origin: America, 1908. Condition: excellent, no enamel damage, all original. Size: 1” x 7/8”. Weight: 5.5 grams.