Commesso pendant

A Renaissance library could include a cabinet of curiosities stocked with coins, cameos, statuettes, and gemstones. Like fine bindings, these curios could be tokens of wealth and knowledge. Collectors might puzzle over the meaning of carved gemstones just as they might elucidate allegories in medallion vignettes stamped on bindings. Here, the cardinal virtue Prudence holds two of her symbolic attributes, a serpent and a mirror, by which she heeds the aphorism “Know thyself.” Jewels figure in the estate inventory of Laubespine’s sister, Madeleine de Villeroy, a gifted poet who knew how to decipher emblems like Prudence.

Commesso pendant, ca. 1550−60
Chalcedony, mounted in gold with enamel, rubies, emeralds, diamond, and pearl
Lent by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917; 17.190.907, 17.190.907 (Mount)