Lot 258
  • 258

Diamond aigrette, 1750s

10,000 - 15,000 GBP
25,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • silver, gold, diamonds, zircon
Decorated to the centre with a crenelated building under siege, encircled by foliate sprays with plume surmount and tassel pendants, set with foil back rose diamonds, later brooch fitting to reverse, associated 18th century case, four small rose diamonds deficient, one diamond paste replacement.


By family tradition the aigrette was made for Lady Emma Hamilton, mistress to Lord Nelson.

Catalogue Note

The current Aigrette is unusual for its depiction of a crenelated building under siege, and is probably a depiction of the sack of Constantinople in 1204, which marked the culmination of the Fourth Crusade. It was to mark the end of the schism between the Western and Eastern Churches, which had begun with the massacre of the Roman Catholic inhabitants of Constantinople by the Eastern Orthodox population in 1182 and marked a great turning point in Medieval history by the Crusaders’ decision to attack the world’s largest Christian city. Ultimately it was to significantly reduce the power of the Byzantium Empire and was to accelerate the final collapse of Christendom in the East and the rise of Islam.

Byzantium has always held an allure for the West, a vestige of the Roman Empire and city of great wealth and culture during the Dark Ages. During the 18th Century this Turkish fascination manifested itself throughout the Decorative Arts.

Both Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Turkish themed opera Il Seraglio which premiered on the 16 July 1782 at the Burgtheater, Vienna and Mozarts 3rd movement Rondo alla turca (Turkish March) from his Piano Sonata No. 11 were both highly acclaimed at the time.

The Honourable Charles Hamilton, 9th son and 14th child of the 6th Earl of Abercorn, built a garden folly in the form of a Turkish tent in the 1750s, within the famous landscape gardens he created during the 1738 to 1773, at Panishill Park Cobham. While in 1718 Sir Robert Walpole’s sister, Lady Dorothy Walpole, Vicountess Townsend, 1686-1726, was depicted by the Irish painter Charles Jarvas in a Turkish habit and turban, standing in a landscape filled with Turkish tents. This painting would have been familiar to fashionable 18th century society when it was hung in the Great Parlour of Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, the famous Gothic revival villa built by her nephew Horace Walpole, where it can be seen to this day.

The aigrette would have been the perfect accompaniment to fix to a Turban whose iconography would have been understood within fashionable circles of the time.