Wednesday, January 2, 2019

DAY 20: The Incidental Art of Parasol Handles

On Jennie's wedding day in Paris, April 15, 1874, she displayed two cherished gifts from her father, Leonard Jerome--a necklace of pearls, her only jewelry, and a gorgeous new Chantilly lace parasol.

Enamel, gold, tortoiseshell handle, Tiffany & Co., 1880s
We think of parasols as frippery items, confections of silk and lace designed to shield a lady's complexion. But these were also objects of art, less for their silk than the handles grasped in a lady's gloved fingers. Although the silk wore out, and was frequently changed for fresh trimmings at a parasol maker (like Dupuy, a fashionable establishment on the Rue de la Paix in Paris), the handles were cherished.

Jennie's gift from Leonard Jerome is described as fragile white frills, mounted on a tortoise-shell stick rimmed with gold. I'm guessing it was from Tiffany, where Leonard Jerome was known to frequently purchase gifts for ladies--because Tiffany, like most jewelers, was a principal crafter of parasol handles. Jennie's wedding gift may have resembled this one pictured at right.

Carved amber and jeweled silver-gilt
enamel mount, Faberge, workmaster
Andre Gorianov, 1900. Notice
the ouroboros serpent motif in diamonds.
Carved smoky quartz, gold, and enamel, Faberge,
workmaster Henrik Wigstrom, St. Petersburg, 1910

Another remarkable jeweler that fashioned glorious handles for both parasols and men's walking sticks was Faberge, the St. Petersburg firm of Russian Court jewelers best known for its extraordinary jeweled Easter eggs. The close ties between Princess Alix and her sister, Minnie--the Russian Czarina--meant the two royal families frequently exchanged gifts from Faberge. As a result, the items became so fashionable among upperclass Britons that in 1906 Faberge opened a London shop.

Carved nephrite and rose-cut diamond set flowers and gold rocaille,
Faberge, workmaster Michael Perchin, St. Petersburg, 1899

Of course, not every lady could afford such luxuries. But artful attention to a parasol's handle could be found in myriad places, and with spectacular results. Here, some varied examples of handles that have endured through time: 
carved ivory, by Jean-Pascal Francois Norest, 1859, V&A Museum

Rock crystal cabochon with reverse intaglio

Carved bird's claw in tortoiseshell,
For more images from THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN, visit the  Pinterest board behind the novel.  

Parasol, Dupuy Paris, 1895-1890,