When did the Modern Age begin? I suppose it depends upon whom you ask—and the specific context of the modernity under analysis. Literature? Medicine? The Decorative Arts? Even within a narrowly-focused subject, you're likely to hear conflicting answers to this provocative question—and I will not attempt to answer that question here.
But I will point-out an observation of early Modernism—and not exactly where you might expect it. The Victorian gold-filled cufflinks, shown above, were made in the Late Nineteenth Century, probably in America. This is a period usually considered pre-Modernist. A highly-sculpted golden "bead" with swirling ribs and tapered ends, sits at each end of a gently curved center bar. The back bead is, naturally, a bit smaller so that it will fit through the buttonholes at the cuff. Now the bead alone, handsome as it is, is not particularly novel; one can find such examples since the 1600's (and possibly earlier). What is unusual—and gives a Modernist sensibility to the cufflinks—is the fact that the designer moved the bead alone to centerstage. Once on-the-cuff, the understated details of the ribbed swirls becomes the sole decorative element of the jewelry. Featuring the simple beauty of a conventional object is a hallmark of the Modernism to come. (Think soup cans prints or civic sculpture in the form of a clothespin.) Modernists like to force the viewer into re-evaluating the design value of sometimes overlooked objects. If there is any Modernism in these cufflinks, it is not due to pioneering novelty or artistic re-invention. It is because the designer chose to feature an object we already know and, now without distraction, we can appreciate its beauty with fresh eyes. Click on the photo above to learn more about these handsome Victorian cufflinks.
Though our Greenwich Village store is now permanently closed, LEO Design is still alive and well! Please visit our on-line store where we continue to sell Handsome Gifts (www.LEOdesignNYC.com).
We also can be found in Pittsburgh's historic "Strip District" at Mahla & Co. Antiques (www.mahlaantiques.com) or in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania at The Antique Center of Strabane (www.antiquecenterofstrabane.com).
Or call to arrange to visit our Pittsburgh showroom (by private appointment only). 917-446-4248