Idealisation as a design approach in enamelled contemporary jewellery



Fashion, Jewellery & Textile Design


  • design history, design process

The Platonic notion of idealism, specifically used in the botanical imagery represented inRenaissance paintings is investigated in this paper and compared to the botanical motifs used in Renaissance enamelled jewellery. The same process of idealisation used in Renaissance painting and enamel jewels is applied to South African botanical motifs, which creates a stylistic departure from the botanical images used during the Renaissance.

It can be postulated that Plato’s theory on the thrice removed reality can be applied to the jewellery designer where nature (the form) was imitated as an ideal image by Renaissance painters(first representation). The idealised images from these paintings or drawings were then further interpreted by Renaissance jewellery designers and applied as even more stylised motifs in the jewels (second representation) due to the even further idealisation of the original form. Hence, subjects and objects became ‘idealised’ through the conversion of a philosophical principle into an artistic style. Thus, in the artistic or design approach of idealism, artworks became representations of the ideal form which were created through the process of perception and recollection.

The approach in this research is threefold. Firstly, a literary review is conducted on the thought and theory of idealism and its link with Renaissance painting and enamelled jewellery. This literature review contextualises the idealisation of botanical motifs, enamelling techniques and colours employed on Renaissance jewellery. Secondly, images and information on selected Renaissance paintings and enamelled jewellery incorporating botanical motifs are compared and analysed in order to investigate the progression of the idealised motif. Such pieces are interpreted, processed and the overall designs in each category stylistically analysed. Through the analysis of the pieces in terms of design format, enamelling techniques, enamelling types and colours used, the basic design model that was employed in the designing of the piece becomes apparent. The enamelling techniques, types, colours and motifs are re-­‐applied using the notion of idealisation, to South African botanical motifs and a design is constructed for contemporary enamel jewellery.

Lastly, although enamel is chosen as the medium in this case study it can be substituted with other mediums employed in contemporary jewellery.

Results from the design framework are practically applied through the designing and manufacturing of contemporary jewellery using enamel as a medium. The botanical motifs used in the contemporary jewellery would thus represent the idealised image of the South African botanical example, which would be based on the idealised botanical images of Renaissance jewellery. Hence, the motifs would be thrice removed from the ‘truth’, which is aligned with Plato’s theory on idealism. This would show the application of an historical design principle to contemporary design.

Historical fine art concepts can thus be applied and used as a design approach in contemporary jewellery design and, as a result, a contemporary enamel range of jewellery is created, translated from the Renaissance idealised botanical motifs into a South African context.

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