From “Jewels of the Renaissance” by Yvonne Hackenbroch, with an introduction by Gonzague Saint Bris (Assouline)
“Look at light and admire its beauty. Close your eyes, and then look again: What you saw is no longer there; and what you will see later is not yet.” These words from Leonardo da Vinci are the ideal introduction for this marvelous book on Renaissance jewelry whose splendor illuminates every turn of the page.
The Renaissance was a special moment in time when the pretext of a return to antiquity created a movement for a new era, the advent of a shimmering, multifaceted future that spread a sense of rebirth and flamboyant youthfulness around Europe. From 1450 to the early 17th century, people who had seemed to be separated by so many borders became conscious that they all lived on the same continent, be they kings, merchants, artists, navigators, priests, or men of war.
In those times of budding global trade and exchange, the medium of printing helped establish the modern world of culture and communication. All human endeavors were being transformed—even opposites seemed to be shifting toward harmony. The discovery of the New World and the birth of capitalism, the dawn of patronage and Copernicus’ revelations, the Reformation and the Concordat, the French kings’ conquest of Italy, artistic drive and a literary movement.
Drive and enthusiasm, creation, exchanges, and discoveries abounded. The Renaissance reached cruising speed with an unparalleled dynamism—artistic, technical, scientific, intellectual, and religious. Nothing could stop the vision or the momentum. Everything was on the move; in warfare, politics, science, and religion, man was finally at the center of knowledge and the world. The time had come. Out with the old world and in with the new.
Jewels reigned in the Renaissance; one might say it was a European art that imposed itself on an international scale. This book is an invitation to turn the pages as though dancing a Renaissance pavane: It holds the secret thrill of time recaptured through history. The Renaissance teaches us to admire both the intelligence of grace and the grace of intelligence, when men wore gems, and jewels weighed lightly on women’s shoulders.