Did you know that enamelled watches were often presented as love tokens?

Love was never more valued than in the 18th century. The growing emphasis on the individual, his feelings and personal aspirations would have a completely new consequence; the arrival of marriage for love, which would gradually oust certain secular patriarchal values such as lineage and heritage protection.

From the 1750s-1760s, this absolute idealisation of the feeling of love gradually evolved into an appropriate sentimentality; literature, together with the visual and decorative arts was therefore overflowing with allegories and symbols referring to love in all its forms, from the purest ideal to blatant pornography...

Towards the end of the century, this loving intensification veered towards the melancholy and paved the way for romanticism; passion seeming all the stronger the larger the obstacles.

Enamelled watches, often presented as love tokens, were not of course exempt from this overwhelming trend. They were decorated with winged cupids, quivers and arrows, doves and flowers, altars and smoking urns, romantic conversations, famous couples borrowed from tragedy and mythological tales, loyal dogs but also, hidden references to the sexual act, such as rabbits and bagpipes...


Chatelaine with watch
signed Julien Le Roy
Paris, circa 1750
Diamonds, gold and painted enamels
Inv. 2845

A lot more in the exhibition Once upon a time, until September 17