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Behind Our Best Seller: Greek Palmette Bracelet

Discover the story behind this timeless jewelry design

A customer favorite for years, our Greek Palmette Bracelet is a testament to the timelessness of ancient design. Infinitely adaptable and ripe for constant reinvention, ancient Greek art and architecture have served as inspiration for artists and designers for centuries.

The art of ancient Greece at The Met finds expression in majestic statuary, painted vases, masterful gold jewelry, and other precious objects on view in our galleries. Much of what we know about ancient Greek sculpture is through Roman copies and adaptations of works that date as far back as the fifth century B.C. During the Roman Empire, the demand by wealthy patrons for Greek sculpture was so high that both Greek and Roman artists created marble and bronze copies of Greek statues, which were shipped throughout the Empire.

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A Roman copy from a Greek sculpture of the 2nd century B.C., this Marble Statue Group of the Three Graces dates back to the 2nd century A.D. Purchase, Philodoroi, Lila Acheson Wallace, Mary and Michael Jaharis, Annette and Oscar de la Renta, Leon Levy Foundation, The Robert A. and Renée E. Belfer Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. John A. Moran, Jeannette and Jonathan Rosen, Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation and Nicholas S. Zoullas Gifts, 2010. Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

These replicas have been credited as a key factor in the stylistic preservation of ancient Greek art, as so many of the originals have since been lost or melted down while Roman copies have been preserved in the world’s great museums. The replicas also helped to stimulate the classical revival that emerged in the eighteenth century.

Our Greek Palmette Bracelet was inspired by yet another important reimagining of Greek design. In 1856, Welsh architect and designer Owen Jones (1809–1874) first published The Grammar of Ornament. A prominent theorist of flat pattern, geometry, and polychromy; Jones presented a series of lectures at the Society of Arts and at the Government School of Design discussing theories of ornament. Looking to explore the foundational principles of the decorative arts, Jones proposed 37 “general principles in the arrangement of form and colour [sic] in architecture and the decorative arts,” which later served as the preface to his 20-chapter book.

 

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Title page from The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones (British, London 1809–1874 London), with illustrations by J. B. Waring, J. O. Westwood and M. D. Wyatt, published by Bernard Quaritch Ltd in London, 1868. From the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

The Grammar of Ornament presents examples of ornament from around the globe and throughout history. One of the most notable chapters is devoted to Moresque design, including the design of the Alhambra, which Jones traveled to Grenada to study as a young man. Of the book’s 20 chapters, 19 have geographic focuses including Arabian, Turkish, Persian, and of course Greek designs. The final chapter is titled “Leaves and Flowers from Nature,” which Jones viewed as a timeless inspiration that had served artists and designers throughout the ages, with endless possibilities for interpretation by future creatives.

 

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A page from The Grammar of Ornament featuring Greek designs. Image courtesy Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library’s Rare Books, Smithsonian Institution Libraries, supported in part by funds from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) through the New York State Regional Bibliographic Databases Program.

 

In his chapter on Greek decorative motifs, Jones wrote: “the Greeks in their ornament were close observers of nature, and although they did not copy, or attempt to imitate (it), they worked on the same principles. The three great laws which we find everywhere in nature—radiation from the parent stem, proportionate distribution of the areas, and the tangential curvature of the lines—are always obeyed, and it is the unerring perfection with which they are, in the most humble works as in the highest, which excites our astonishment.” Jones illustrated the chapter with renderings of the most common Greek decorative motifs for vases and architectural moldings, which included multiple variations on alternating lotus and palmette motifs, a pattern called the anthemion.

 

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Our Greek Palmette Bracelet.

 

The Museum’s Greek Palmette Bracelet, based on one of the Greek anthemion designs illustrated in Jones’s book, is bronze with 24k gold overlay and lightly antiqued. Visit us in-store or click here to shop online.

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