From The Archives: The Louis & Ludwig Brooch

King Ludwig II of Bavaria was a troubled man. During his 22 year reign he fought, and subsequently lost, a war, befriended the controversial composer Richard Wagner, and commissioned two extravagant palaces and a fairy-tale castle. He shunned the day-to-day affairs of state and became a social recluse, before his death under mysterious circumstances at the age of 40. Some declared him insane, some called him a tortured creative, but there is no denying the architectural and artistic legacy he left behind.

King Louis XIV of France, on the other hand, was a man with a seemingly limitless capacity for pomp and ceremony. The self-styled "Sun King", believed in the absolute power of the monarchy and commissioned over 300 formal portraits of himself, cementing his image as a glorious and powerful divine leader. It was this image that fascinated Ludwig, and he consequently romantically thought of himself as the shadow of Louis - the "Moon King" to his sun.

Herrenchiemsee, Ludwig's grand tribute to Louis, is a partially completed replica of Versailles which pushed the Moon King to bankruptcy. Construction halted after his death, and it still stands unfinished. It was this story that captured my imagination during my last year of study at Glasgow School of Art. I was swept away by the contrast between these two men, both physically and emotionally, and how Louis trail-blazed while Ludwig was simply happy to imitate.

I began designing pieces that explored this contrast and The Louis & Ludwig Brooch was the first piece I made during this exploration. The front of the brooch is based on a detail on the walls of the Palace of Versailles, which I drew repeatedly until I had broken it down into a simple geometric form. The front is also encrusted with silver granulation to reference the opulence of the palace and the craftsmanship involved in creating the gilded interiors.

The reverse, however, has a claw set wire-work silver brooch back which has been oxidised in striking contrast to the silver front. As well as this, the back of the brooch has a thick coating of blood red glass enamel. This play on contrast not only includes colour and texture, but extends to the use of material. I wanted to suggest that, although entirely wearable, the brooch was unfinished. I wanted this body of work to feel partial and incomplete, much like Ludwig's palace and, tragically, much like his life.

Stay tuned for more "From The Archives" posts, where i'll be highlighting my favourite designs and the historical stories that inspired and informed them. Remember to follow HGR Jewellery on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date with my current work!