Jewellery, Watches, Antiquities and Objects of Vertu (26 November 2019)

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Date of Auction: 26th November 2019

Sold for £2,600

Estimate: £3,000 - £5,000

A ‘Hydra’ pendant/ornament, after René Lalique, modelled as a nine headed serpent, the pierced work bodies displaying coloured silk threads within, the heads, open mouthed, with enamelled detail and red glass eyes, mounted in yellow precious metal, length 11cm. £3,000-£5,000

Condition Report

There is some twisting, denting and splitting to the pierced work bodies. Three red glass eyes are lacking. There is some wear to the enamel detailing and general surface wear. The bodies display silk thread/cord in green and brown. The yellow precious metal mount is unmarked and untested. There are no fittings to the piece (i.e. no brooch or pendant fittings). Gross weight 85.5gm.


This corsage ornament is after the Serpents Pectoral, 1898-1899, by the famed Art Nouveau jeweller and designer, René Lalique (1860-1945). Serpents were a common feature of Lalique’s work, and were a motif he returned to repeatedly in jewellery, glass and bronze work.

A similar pectoral was displayed at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900, suspending strings of pearls from the serpents’ mouths.

The Lalique Serpents Pectoral of 1898-1899 is exhibited at the Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, (Inventory No 1216), the collection of the wealthy oil magnet, Calouste Gulbenkian (1869-1955), who acquired tremendous wealth from his oil dealings in the Middle East and Russia. Born in Constantinople to an Armenian family, he studied and lived in London, Paris and Lisbon. A passionate art collector, he was a friend of René Lalique for 50 years, and between the years 1899 and 1927, purchased 80 extraordinary works of art directly from Lalique. The Serpents Pectoral was acquired by Gulbenkian from the artist in February 1908. In 1965, the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum and headquarters of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation opened in Santa Gertrudes Park in Lisbon, and houses the world’s largest collection of jewellery, art objects, glass and drawings by René Lalique.

The Lernaean Hydra, was a multi headed serpent monster of Greek and Roman mythology; both its breath and blood were poisonous and when one head was chopped off, two would regrow in its place. The monster was eventually slain by the hero Hercules, as the second of his Twelve Labours.

See: Vivienne Becker: Art Nouveau Jewellery, pub Thames & Hudson, London 1985, plate 59.