The Art Nouveau period was brief but transformational - appearing around 1890, as a reaction against the industrial dominance of 19th century, and lasting until 1910. A total art style, embracing both fine and decorative arts: including architecture, painting, graphic art, interior design, furniture, textiles, ceramics, glass art, metal work and, of course, jewellery.
Nature, and its associations of femininity and fertility, was a the dominant theme of the Art Nouveau. Flowing lines and curves defined the style, with nymph-like maidens, botantical themes, peacocks, insects and butterflies recurring motifs.
Art Nouveau jewellers chose to work with non- and semi-precious materials, focussing was on the originality of design and craftsmanship over the material value of the components. Moulded glass, enamel and semi-precious stones were framed by delicate silver and goldwork.
Mainly self-taught, Erik Magnussen originated from Denmark, where he developed his characteristic techniques and designs using naturalistic motifs. Beginning his career at his uncle's gallery 'Winkel and Magnussen', he was influenced by H.C. Viggo-Hansen where he developed his chasing skills, and from the sculptor Stephan Sinding. One of his first major successes was the sale of his 'Grasshopper' brooch to the Museum of Decorative Art in 1907, and the current lot is thought to be from this period.
This pendant in its form and execution demonstrates awareness of the symbolist jewellery being produced in Glasgow at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century, especially by Francis and Margaret Macdonald. The known work of the sisters is mainly figurative rather than in this example which shows opposed birds, a motif more commonly associated with artists such as Talwin Morris.
Established in 1875, Liberty's department store in London built its reputation on supplying artistic and unusual products. In 1899 it launched a line of 'Cymric' jewellery, which drew both the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts styles.
The success of the Cymric line was in no doubt due to the innovation and talent of the designers employed by Liberty, including Jessie M. King and Archibald Knox, who designed these buckles.