Chinese - Pair of Hair Ornaments, 19th century


Pair of Hair Ornaments, 19th century

Jade, coral, cloisonné, metalwork, kingfisher feathers , 6.3 cm (2 1/2 in.)


In Beijing on October 6, 1883, Isabella visited a shop and noted, “Saw there wonderful decorations and jewels bought for bride, of stones, and king-fisher feathers.” It is very likely that she purchased this pair of hair ornaments and a pendant at this time. Objects decorated with the iridescent blue feathers of the kingfisher were highly prized in China for their exceptional color and sheen, and perhaps also because of the painstaking process of cutting and pasting the minute feathers.

Source: “Chinese Objects,” in Journeys East: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Asia, edited by Alan Chong and Noriko Murai (Boston: ISGM and Gutenberg Periscope, 2009): 445-446.