17 January 2017


Elizabeth I
Charles I
Pearls, by Beatriz Chadour-Sampson and Hubert Bari, accompanies a 2013 exhibition at the V&A curated by the authors. The catalogue is one of the few books to examine pearls in relation to the decorative arts: "The literature on pearls concentrates on their natural history. This book aims to chronicle the changing fashions in jewellery and to show how historical events and economic developments have influenced who wore pearls."

The first two chapters, on pearl culture and pearl fishing are by Bari, while Chadour-Sampson writes the remaining six chronological chapters on the cultural history of pearls. Photographs of exquisite Roman, Byantine, and medieval accessories are included, and Renaissance paintings (such as George Gower's 'Armada portrait' of Elizabeth I) depict pearls as status symbols. A simple pearl drop earring is perhaps the book's most fascinating object, as it was worn by Charles I at his beheading.