Monday, August 3, 2009

Madam Rose of Shanghai - enamel pendant

I have always had a fascination about Shanghai especially anything from the 1920s to '40s era. This pendant was made with a piece of copper which I cut out, then applied various enamel techniques including cloisonne and painting enamel. I have lost count of the numbers of firings I've done on the piece. I wanted to create a piece that's both reserved and sensual, vintage yet modern, with a strong Oriental feel. In my mind, Madam Rose was a beautiful, strong and independent woman from Shanghai in the 40s, but because of the restrictions and limitations imposed on women at that time and the economic difficulties in the immediate post war period, she had to resort to using her beauty to survive. The pendant measures just over 6cm long, and will be the centre piece of a more elaborate necklace, for which I have picked out some stones and beads as shown.

Madam Rose grew up in Nanjing, and was studying at the university there when the war broke out. Nanjing was bombed, and she escaped to another city and eventually reached Shanghai just after the war. She tried so hard to find a decent job but as she had no relations there, she was bullied to the point that she contemplated suicide, until one day, a well dressed middle age woman approached her and asked if she would like to work for her to entertain guests at her parties. That's when her life as Miss Rose and later Madam Rose began. She was transformed from a naive young lady to a calculating woman - her beauty was irresistible, and she knew exactly what she wanted and how to get it. She danced with rich business men, high ranking officials and colonels, in exchange for monetary and business favours. She started her own clubhouse, and invested her money in government bonds. She wore the finest silk cheongsams, diamonds, pearls and French perfumes. She was the most desirable madam in the whole of Shanghai and yet, her life was empty. When she wasn't entertaining, she liked to sit in her garden among all her roses, thinking about what life could have been.......

Well, that's how the story goes in my mind.

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