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The Fascinating Story Behind a Portuguese Jewellery Exhibition

PORTUGAL – Ahead of an exhibition of one of the world’s finest collections of antique Portuguese jewellery, presented by Sotheby’s and S.J.Phillips at the Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida in Lisbon from 26–28 May, read the foreword by Joao Magalhaes to Diana Scarisbrick’s book The S. J. Phillips Collection of Jewels of Portugal...

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FLORAL SPRAY FOR THE HAIR, TIED WITH A RIBBON, 18TH CENTURY. CHRYSOBERYLS CLOSE SET IN SILVER.

The story of this book - and of the exhibition that first accompanied it in Lisbon - starts with a fortuitous visit to S.J. Phillips on New Bond Street in October 2016. Captivated by an intriguing Instagram post, I walked into this legendary gallery hoping to see some fine jewels. Little did I know that what awaited me, understatedly in the back room, was a remarkable group of pieces whose colour and energy were both astonishing and yet familiar to my Portuguese eyes.

At that moment, I realized that this wonderful collection had to be brought to Lisbon for public display. A quick conversation with Francis, Jonathan and Nicolas Norton, S.J. Phillips’s partners, followed by a visit from our incredibly supportive Chairman of Sotheby’s Asia, Patti Wong, put everything in motion.

In the context of European arts, Portugal has left its indelible mark by absorbing multiple, global influences from across the territories with which it was associated. This led to a distinctively national style, which found in the Decorative Arts its best material expression.

The S.J. Phillips Collection of Jewels of Portugal, with its core of 18th century pieces, indeed reflects to perfection an important and incredibly rich moment in Portuguese Art, when great amounts of gold, diamonds and minerals were arriving in Lisbon from Brazil. In the capital, these goods met with the latest artistic trends from Europe, under the aegis of that magnificent patron of the Arts, King Dom João V.

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STOMACHER (DEVANT DE CORSAGE), LATE 18TH CENTURY. SILVER, GOLD, DIAMONDS, FOILED GOLDEN AND TAWNY COLOURED TOPAZES, CLOSE SET.

Diana Scarisbrick, the great authority in historic jewellery, chronicles not only this particular moment in history but the entire development of this sophisticated art form and, through her words and insight, we hope it will reach a broader, interested audience, giving to Portuguese jewels the wide international recognition it deserves.

Sotheby’s and S.J. Phillips have been neighbours in Bond Street, the epicentre of the art and antiques world, for 100 years, with a fruitful, cordial and always mutually enriching relationship. To celebrate this centenary friendship with this book is therefore deeply gratifying. On a personal note, it is with profound admiration that I thank Francis, Jonathan and Nicolas Norton for painstakingly building this exquisite collection and for allowing Sotheby’s and I to be part of their history.

Extract from Diana Scarisbrick, The S. J. Phillips Collection of Jewels of Portugal. London: Sotheby’s, S.J.Phillips, 2017.

The S.J. Phillips Collection of Jewels of Portugal is an exhibition of jewellery at the Casa-Museu Medeiros e Almeida in Lisbon from 26-28 May.

TOP IMAGE: DETAIL FROM LARGE PENDANT WITH CROWNED MONOGRAM, IBERIAN, LATE 17TH CENTURY. GOLD, SILVER EMERALD AND DIAMOND PENDANT CENTERED ON A MONOGRAM AOTL, THE INITIALS OF THE MOTTO OR NAME OF THE OWNER, WITHIN A DIAMOND BORDER AMIDST FOLIAGE SURMOUNTED BY A CROWN WITH SYMBOLIC ORB AND CROSS.

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