1 – 👑Hark! ‘Tis time for #ThreadTalk, crown edition. 👑
Yes, that ultimate statement of wealth and power, perched atop some of the most celebrated & notorious heads in history.
But why crowns? Well, let’s dig into history, privilege, & wealth to see what lurks beneath.⚜️
2 – Crowns have been with us a long time, but diadems came first. And perhaps, by way of India. A diadem goes across the forehead, and can be affixed to the hair or tightened into place, rather than sitting atop the head.
This absolute stunner dates from 10th C Kashmir.
3 – Burial mounds across the world have unearthed all sorts of diadems over the centuries, some looking as if they were crafted specifically for funerary purposes, and others having been worn.
Below, from Egypt’s New Kingdom, two gazelles perch on a queen’s diadem. 15thC BC.
4 – Of course, wreaths were lit, too. 🔥Like this example from the Late Classical Period (potentially made in Turkey). Buried Macedonian royalty are often found with such crowns, which were quite fashionable at the time, and now synonymous with Classical headgear. 4th C, BC.
5 – Indeed, the presence of such headgear & power is everywhere, including among the many, many coins of the Late Classical, like this Stater of Elis with Hera upon it from the MFA Boston.
For *reasons* humans have just put a diadem on it. And it works. <3 the palmettes.
6 – But, sometimes, we’re not 100% sure a crown is a crown. Because context.
I’ve seen plenty of museum entries that say “crown… or belt”. And this crown, unearthed in in 1961 in Israel could be a crown… or it could be part of an urn. It dates to the Copper Age (4-3300 BC).
7 – Whatever the case, crowns & diadems just look awesome. There’s a certain amount of performance going on when you’re willing to put a moving target on your head with such *style*.
Or, you’re like Marciana, sister of emperor Trajan
ca. AD 130–138, who was clearly a bad bitch.
8 – Royalty, of course, are most often associated with crowns. The Crown of Princess Blanche is the oldest known surviving crown of England (because, like we’ll discuss shortly, they had a habit of getting taken). This dates from 1370-80 and is so extra I can’t stand it.
9 – If you could mix royalty and religion, well, that’s when things got exciting. Holy Roman Emperors were crowned with this ostentatious baby from the 10th-18thC. It’s had quite an exciting life, having been moved around from country to country for safekeeping. Because war.
10 – This portrait of Charlemagne by Dürer is a bit of wishful propaganda: Charlemagne died before this crown was even made.
But hey! It’s a good story, right? If I were a newbie Holy Roman Emperor (haha, that’s rich), it would be cool to share the same head space. Legacy!
11 – Speaking of religion: the Catholic church just loved the imagery of crowns, going so far as making ridiculously 💰💰💰ones for *statues*.
Or, you know, melting down indigenous works of art to make their own monstrosities. Like this one from 1660, the Crown of the Andes.
12 – Gold is terribly melty as it turns out. And people have a habit of stealing shiny things & making them their own. Because of course.
Especially the French & English. Take the crown of Louis XV originally featuring the Regent’s Diamon & Sancy diamonds “found” in India.
13 – Along with most things royal value, most of the Crown Jewels of France were lost in the revolution. You know, because the monarchs were known for their general subtlety when it came to their wealth.
But HEY. Peep those red heels. Love it, Lou.
14 – Because Napoleon was well, Napoleon, he wasted no time making his own fancy head bling for his coronation. He called it…
The Crown of Charlemagne.
Okay, I think we have official anachronistic inception here. This is covered in antique cameos. Which, weird flex but okay.
15 – Alas, Napoleon’s favorite, his crown of gold leaves, was destroyed in 1819 by Louis XVIII.
Sorry dude, you got canceled. And maybe you should have? Because yo, that symbolism isn’t even subtle. Dial it down maybe a little? No? Okay. Just keep an eye on your wallpaper.
16 – What is *actually* one of my favorite crowns of this period is the crown of Empress Eugenie, which still exists & lives at the Louvre. I like it because while it’s curvy, it’s not delicate. It’s… substantial. Almost kingly in comparison to Blanche’s, right? + Birbs.
17 – The English. If we’re gonna talk the worst, well, we can’t mistake the fact that the Koh-i-Noor diamond, worn by the late Queen Mother (Elizabeth II’s mum).
Read this article on the significance of the Koh-i-Noor & other stolen diamonds of the age.
18 – TIARAS, you say? Well, they’re a fairly newer term that became popular in the 19th century, likely stemming from Classical influences. Very similar to diadems.
Empress Eugenie liked the slimmed-down approach, like this pearl-encrusted number (for my fellow June babies)
19 – Another crown story: the Tiara of Empress Josephine was made from diamonds she was given (after her divorce from Napoleon) by Czar Alexander of Russia. It was made into a tiara in 1890 by Fabergé. The diamond cut is called briolette.
20 – Now, Josephine did not wear the previous tiara (since she predated it) but she did wear this one. AND I LOVE IT SO MUCH.
It’s not often that a diadem looks like it’s moving! In this case, we have portraits of her wearing a similar one, in addition to the actual piece.
21 – There’s even a matching jewelry set to go along with this one. Not every day you see that kind of fashion convergence.
22 – Of course, crowns are truly global. Now that I’ve properly dunked on the West, here’s a 17th c Vajracarya priest’s crown from Nepal. While still certainly encrusted in its fair share of jewels, I love the sculptural quality of this piece, almost like a temple unto itself.
23 – To go back much farther, the Sumerian people in Ur were absolutely, delightfully extra about head wear. Dating from ca. 2500–2300 BC, this is a Puabi’s headdress is everything you could ever want. A Puabi is believed to be a queen-like figure.
24 – This Ming Dynasty crown is… a lot. And I’m okay with that. I love the cloud shapes and the layered, organic feel to the design. I’m particularly a fan of the color scheme here, the blue, purple, and magenta. It seems rather unearthly.
25 – And lastly, because I am a sucker coral, here’s a Victorian period tiara made in London. Just proof that you don’t need to have gold, sapphires, and diamonds to look absolutely brilliant.
26 – Crowns are a very expansive subject, and I’ve just scratched the surface. I do hope you found something enjoyable, challenging, and new. They really are the perfect example of how beauty is usually hiding something rather nefarious. (Below, Norwegian: 1873, silver filigree)
27 – 👑If you enjoyed this, just a reminder that the story isn’t completely over… Patrons get extra content! Plus, I offer monthly classes, special readings, stickers, travel articles, and more.👑
28 – Some sources for those who’d like more info:
29 – Thanks for joining me tonight! Remember: question beauty relentlessly.
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