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Lot 22. Enamel and ruby necklace, mid 19th century. Estimate 50,000 — 70,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

Modelled as a snake, the fully articulated body applied with green, blue, yellow, black and white enamel, the eyes collet-set with circular-cut rubies, length approximately 540mm 

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Lot 23. Enamel and ruby necklace, mid 19th century. Estimate 50,000 — 70,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

Modelled as a snake, the fully articulated body applied with black and white enamel, the eyes collet-set with circular-cut rubies, length approximately 520mm.

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Lot 24. Enamel and ruby necklace, mid 19th century. Estimate 60,000 — 80,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

Modelled as a snake, the fully articulated body applied with black and white enamel, the eyes collet-set with circular-cut rubies, length approximately 675mm.

Note: The serpent is one of the oldest and most widespread mythological symbols, and has been both venerated and feared since antiquity. Through the act of shedding its skin, it is symbolic of immortality and rebirth, while the image of the serpent biting its tail – known as the ouroboros – has become a symbol of cyclic renewal and resurrection, and has been widely used in the decorative arts.

Snake jewels came to particular prominence in the second quarter of the 19th century, when Queen Victoria herself wore a coiled snake bracelet for her first opening of Parliament in 1837, and later a snake ring set with emeralds, presented to her by Prince Albert as a symbol of their engagement in 1840.

The present three works are notable for their highly naturalistic articulation and exquisite enamelling, which they possibly owe to a number of specialised workshops based in Geneva, which became the centre of the painted enamel industry in the early 19th century. 

Cf.: Geoffrey Munn, The Triumph of Love, Jewelry 1530-1930, Thames & Hudson Ltd. London, 1993, pg. 64, for a closely comparable example, attributed to the Geneva enamel workshops.

Sotheby's. S. J. Phillips: A Bond Street Legacy, London, 18 oct. 2017, 12:00 PM