This pendant was produced in Spain after 1660 and represents the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, clothed in the rays of the sun. The pendant would likely have been worn for religious ceremonies and special events. It’s design shows a clear debt to paintings by the Spanish painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1618–1682), evident in the Virgin’s dynamic swirling cloak, her upward gaze, the graceful position of her hands, and in the head of what appears to be a putto, or small angel, at her feet, which has now lost some of its enamel.
This iconography of Mary, known as the Apocalyptic Woman, comes from the New Testament (Revelation 12) and, at the time these objects were made, supported the then contested belief in the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. This is emphasised in a second pendant in Compton Verney’s collection (CVCSC:0351.2.S) by the inclusion of the openwork legend CONCE[BID]A S[I]N P[EC]ADO O[RI]GINAL ('conceived without original sin'). The number of surviving examples of pendants such as this reflects the increase in popular support for this belief in seventeenth-century Spain, where supporters of Mary's conception without the stain of original sin campaigned tirelessly for it to be accepted as dogma by the Catholic Church (this did not happen until 1854). Even in Naples, then a viceroyalty of the Spanish Crown, there was fervent support for the belief, and in fact some of the most famous examples of art related to the depiction of the Immaculate Virgin came from Spanish patrons who employed artists in Naples.
Spanish manufacturing Pendant with the Immaculate Conception After 1660 © Compton Verney, photo by Jamie Woodley