The Nuestra Señora
de Atocha shipwreck in 1622 has been a fascination of mine for
quite some time. So much so, that the Atocha's story and the
treasure that was recovered has been the focus of my newest body
of work for well over a year. The shipwreck was found 350 years
after she sank in a hurricane off the coast of the Florida Keys
and is a time capsule of life as it was in the early 1600's.
The find gave all of us in the 21st century a window into the
The Atocha was
a Spanish galleon that was heavily laden with gold and silver
coins and ingots, religious gold jewelry, Peruvian emeralds,
tobacco, indigo, silver plate as well as intriguing personal
items. One item that really caught my eye was a series of gold
links that looked like parts of a 14th to 16th century girdle
(a long gold necklace of sorts that was worn around the waist
or the shoulders). Girdles were status symbols of power and wealth
and position. Usually made of gold, they were incrusted with
gemstones and pearls. The regalia of Queens!
pieces found at the Atocha wreck site seemed so familiar to me.
These were not new; this was an antique even for 1622! So, my
research began to find more documentation about girdles and more
importantly who was painted wearing them, especially of Spanish
came to mind. The first is of the Spanish Queen consort; Isabel
de Valois (1545-1568) by Juan Pantoja de la Cruz (c. 1565) and
the second was of her youngest daughter, Infanta Catalina Michaila
de Austria (1567-1597) by Alonzo Sánchez Coello (c. 1585).
Isabel was Queen consort to Phillip II of Spain and his third
wife. Mother and daughter were both painted wearing dark gowns
with light colored embroidered sleeves. Both were painting wearing
pairs of aiglets (decorative ends to cording), similar hairstyles,
great hair decorations, and more importantly, girdles that look
almost exactly like the one found at the Atocha wreck site. What
is unique and interesting is that different artists painted these
paintings and they were 20 years apart.
Regalia de las
Reinas de España was inspired by a combination of the
two paintings of Isabel and Catalina and of the artifacts found
on the Atocha. This design utilizes a unique peyote stitch way
of bezeling CZ's to form square bezels, even though the CZ's
are not square. Pearl embellishments, and tiny herringbone shapes
cupping around single cups of cup-chain, add intriguing elements.
Three different components come together to reflect a "girdle-like"
look but in a delicate way. The components terminate into tubular
peyote stitch tubes with little bead caps, ending with two beautiful
buttons and a connector. Beautiful, elegant and fit for a Queen!
Workshop length: This is a 1-day workshop
are 18 inches long