An archeological revival gold bracelet, by Melillo, 1899. Estimate £15,000 – 20,000 (€19,000 – 25,000). Photo Bonhams
Composed of nine panels, seven square and two semi-circular, each of differing « Etruscan » design, elaborately decorated with fine wirework, granulation and applied floral motifs and beading, within helicoid borders, connected by pin-and-slot hinges, the reverse of six panels decorated with four-petalled wirework flowers, the central plaque engraved « executed by Eduardo Melillo under the direction of Giacinto Melillo, Napoli Marzo 1899 », convertible to a choker with the supplied double trace-link chain of similar goldwork with circular medallion clasp depicting the head of Medusa with writhing snakes in her hair and twining under her chin, reverse of one semi-circular plaque applied with wirework initials « GM », bracelet length 19.0cm
Notes: This is a rare example of the work of Eduardo Melillo, protégé of the renowned jeweller Giacinto, who worked closely with the Castellani firm and is widely accredited with popularising jewellery design in the Archaeological Revival style. Giacinto Melillo was employed by Castellani from the age of 17 and swiftly became their star pupil, taking over the running of its workshop at the age of 25 and later becoming an independent jeweller.
The quality of Melillo’s work is well documented and in 1900 he won both the Grand Prix and Legion D’honneur at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. His designs remained very similar in style to Castellani’s and were viewed as somewhat interchangeable; so much so that at the 1878 Exposition, Augusto Castellani apparently complained that many of the pieces on his brother Alessandro’s stand were actually created by Melillo himself, despite bearing the Castellani house marks.
A number of Melillo’s jewels, including this bracelet, featured the use of granulation a notoriously difficult technique that has been used by goldsmiths since antiquity, whereby minute spheres of high carat gold are attached to a surface to form intricate textured motifs. Various Italian archaeological finds in the nineteenth century unearthed examples of this exquisite craftsmanship, thereby inspiring Melillo and the Castellanis to rediscover this lost art through their own designs.
This is an example of bracelet design that was derived from the Campana Collection, compiled by the Italian art collector Giampietro Campana (1808 1880). This collection includes a number of bracelets with a similar hinged-panel style, consisting of original Etruscan earrings hammered flat, combined with modern panels. Both Castellani and Melillo produced designs based on these bracelets, and in turn inspired another wave of ‘ancient’-inspired jewellery adaptations.
A pair of similar bracelets by Castellani can be found on permanent display at The Victoria and Albert Museum (museum number 635-1884)
For similar examples of these bracelets by Giacinto Melillo, see Walker, Stefanie, and Weber Soros, Susan, « Castellani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry », Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2004, page 213, and Munn, Geoffrey C. « Castellani and Giuliano, Revivalist Jewellers of the Nineteenth Century », Trefoil Books, London, 1984, plate 106.
Bonhams. FINE JEWELLERY. 4 Dec 2014 13:00 GMT. LONDON, NEW BOND STREET