A very similar brooch designed by George Paulding Farnham (1859-1927) was exhibited at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris alongside Tiffany’s well-known series of enamelled orchid brooches.
The Paris Herald wrote “it is simply marvellous, the stamens being only the thinness of a hair, yet having two colours in enamel, while even the smallest part of the flower is reproduced”.
As well as impeccable workmanship, this brooch – modelled as a spray of garden mignonette, a window-box flower much loved by the Victorians for its fragrance – was remarkable for its botanical accuracy.
The mignonette, literally ‘sweet thing’, first came into general cultivation in Britain during the 18th century at what is now known as the Chelsea Physic Garden. Farnham himself would have had access to the Tiffany library which contained an impressive number of illustrated journals, as well as an array of dried and pressed botanical specimens.
Accompanied by a case from Hancocks & Co, it sold at £24,000, some 10 times the mid estimate, at the auction on April 3.