Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A mourning brooch from Port Fairy

Directly after Tim Gresham documented From the Bower: Patterns of Collecting at Warrnambool Art Gallery last Saturday week (see previous post) Shane Jones, Kathryn Ryan, Paul Logsdon, Gaye Britt, Tim and I visited Wishart Gallery in nearby Port Fairy. There I discovered this treasure, a striking example of Victorian mourning jewellery. The glass oval inside the gold plated frame contains strands of fine, intricately arranged human hair. It swivels to reveal a cluster of tiny dried leaves.

Some online research promptly conducted by Gaye Britt revealed that they are shamrocks, suggesting that the person memorialised by the brooch is of Irish heritage. This is in perfect keeping with the town's Irish Gaelic roots. (Gaye is shown above examining the brooch in the garden at Wishart Gallery, as Tim looks on).

It's too late to include the brooch in the current leg of From the Bower, but it will certainly be joining my small collection of mourning jewels for the show's Ballarat run from 29 July - 17 September.

Mourning jewels were a key point of reference for my Knots and Braids series (1998 - 2004). Lately I've been thinking of revisiting the imagery, so the discovery of the brooch feels like a kind of omen - at least, that's how I've decided to interpret it!