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Through the Eyes of Athena McAlpine

September 8, 2023

Athena McAlpine is an Irish born Greek, educated in England, who has lived and worked in Italy for the last 20 years.

A lot of her early childhood was spent in Dublin with her grandmother who lived in Kilteragh Pines, Foxrock.  She remembers swimming in Sandy Cove, running around the gardens of Powerscourt, being taken to tea at the Glenview Hotel and learning to ride at Killegar Stables.

When people express surprise that her Greek grandparents chose to settle in Ireland after the war, she says it is not all that unusual, “the weather may be very different, otherwise there are plenty of similarities between the two cultures, after all the Greeks have Homer and the Irish have Joyce!”.

Athena now lives in the Basso Salento region of Puglia, Italy.  Her home is the 500 year old Franciscan monastery, Il Convento di Santa Maria di Costantinopoli which she restored with her late husband Alistair McAlpine to house their collection of textiles, ethnography, tribal and folk art and which she runs as a Bed & Breakfast, welcoming guests from all over the world.

Hamish Bowles at American Vogue magazine described Il Convento as ‘a bed and breakfast establishment that redefines the genre’

Conde Nast Traveller magazine described Il Convento as “brimming with character, with museum-worth art lining the walls… Staying here is akin to visiting an old friend and the attention to detail is out of this world.”

Read on for Athena’s insights into each piece.

LOT 28: AN EARLY 19TH CENTURY GEORGIAN DIAMOND CLUSTER RING

Strong and delicate at the same time.  This ring makes a grand statement but it is far from vulgar.  It is beautiful from every angle which is typical of a well made, handcrafted piece of Georgian jewellery.

 

LOT 24: A LATE 19TH CENTURY EMERALD AND PEARL CRUCIFORM PENDANT ON CHAIN

A decorative and feminine piece of history to hang around your neck.

 

LOT 18: A VICTORIAN SEED PEARL AND DIAMOND SERPENT NECKLACE, CIRCA 1850

Supple with great movement, I love the way this necklace coils around your neck.  The serpent is not only a potent symbol of temptation, danger and evil but also fertility, rebirth and renewal. Apparently the snake enjoyed a resurgence of popularity during Victorian times, due to Queen Victoria's enthusiasm for serpent jewellery.  Her engagement ring was in the form of a serpent with stones set in its head. A very seductive piece.

 

LOT 78: A LONG CHAIN SAUTOIR, BY BOUCHERON, CIRCA 1970

By Boucheron. Slim, thin, and very, very fine. A subtle and discreet ladylike piece of jewellery.

 

LOT 93: A DIAMOND BRACELET, BY BULGARI, CIRCA 1980

By Bulgari. A classic piece. Simple, elegant, enduring. Once you put this bracelet on, you do not want to take it off.

 

LOT 86: A PAIR OF GOLD 'GALAPAGOS' EARCLIPS, BY FRED PARIS, CIRCA 1990

By Fred Paris. I am feeling nostalgic for the feel of clip-on earrings.  They remind me of big hair and padded shoulders although this zoomorphic pair of earrings I would probably also enjoy wearing on holiday or at the beach along with the shell ring.

 

LOT 173: A DIAMOND COCKTAIL RING

I love the decadence of wearing statement jewellery at the beach.  It is very Slim Aarons! I can see this shell shaped ring on a tanned hand, the diamonds sparkling in the sun!

 

LOT 37: A FINE ART DECO EMERALD AND DIAMOND BRACELET, CIRCA 1935

Exquisitely made. Turn it over in your hand and you can see how beautifully engineered it is and how well it moves.  That said, I think it would be an excellent piece tore purpose as a headband.  

 

LOT 91: A RUBY AND DIAMOND DRESS RING

I love a bling ring. This is an unapologetically dazzling piece of jewellery.  It is the deep, red colour of the ruby that makes it so eye catching.

 

LOT 2: A GEM-SET 'TRINITY' RING, BY CARTIER

By Cartier.  I remember as a teenager coveting the Cartier Russian wedding ring in three different types of gold; white, red and yellow. Now, as a much older woman, this ring is just as covetable.  The three entwined bands are studded with the precious coloured stones, making this timeless design a more grown up and sophisticated version and they feel satisfyingly thick as you roll them between your thumb and ring finger.  

 

LOT 143: A PAIR OF ROCK CRYSTAL, SAPPHIRE AND DIAMOND PENDENT EARRINGS

Striking and modern. The clarity of the rock crystal feels very clean and pure.

 

LOT 167: A MALACHITE, CORAL, ROCK CRYSTAL, DIAMOND AND ONYX SAUTOIR NECKLACE

A dramatic necklace made of powerfully charged stones.  Rock crystal for clarity; strength giving onyx; malachite which was supposed to be Venus' stone of choice; the warmth of coral and glitter of diamonds.  I would wear this over a black polo neck in the winter and white T-shirt in the summer.

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Weronika Kocurkiewicz
Fine Art Administrator

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Written by:
Weronika Kocurkiewicz
Fine Art Administrator
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Weronika Kocurkiewicz
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