In May 1941, the famed literary magazine, The New Yorker, wrote that the reputedly eccentric Fulco Santo Stefano della Cerda, Duke of Verdura, began his fifteen year collaboration with the highly acclaimed fashion designer Coco Chanel in 1919 after depleting his inheritance during a week-long spree in Sicily. Whether this account of their meeting is true or apocryphal, the resulting partnership contributed enormously to the jewelry and couture spheres of the period. Both Verdura and Chanel had a stated taste for the Baroque. The teaming up of her fashion daring and his extensive knowledge of the history of Art allowed them to make wonderfully modern adaptations of traditional designs and motifs.
The present pair of brooches is a perfect example and probably the most "emblematic" of their work together. The Maltese cross dates to the 11th Century and derives its name from the white cross emblem on the black robes of the military and religious order, the Knights Hospitallers, which was based in Malta. The colorful gemstones in the suite are reminiscent of stained glass windows. Until Verdura's departure from Paris for New York in 1934, he created and recreated variations on this motif, which was to prove pivotal to the imagery of the House of Chanel for years to come.