With thanks to late Elizabeth Hughes who identified so many buttons in her Big Book of Buttons, we learn that this silver button commemorates the most popular 19th-century opera Les Huguenots (The Protestants) by Giacomo Meyerbeer that looks far back on a violently divisive political power struggle, the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572.
Depicted on this button is a Protestant soldier Marcel (fictitious protagonist) who fought and perished in the historical massacre of the French Calvinist Protestants in a wave of Catholic mob violence.
Date mark on the front is hard to see, but the scalloped borders and what appears to be a letter “i” suggests it was made in 1904, by the London silversmith Samuel Jacob as indicated by the initials SJ. Les Huguenots was the first opera to be performed at the Opéra more than 1,000 times and continued to be produced regularly up to 1936, more than a century after its premiere. The first performace in London (Covent Garden Theatre) was 20 June 1842.
It was performed in many countries, but its title Les Huguenots was sometimes altered (bowdlerized, sanitized) in other languages to avoid inflaming religious tensions among its global audiences. A slice of history through a button.
See Date Letters for London silversmiths shared on the silvermakersmarks.co.uk: https://silvermakersmarks.co.uk/Dates/London.html
Listen to Marcel singing a Huguenot war song against the Pope and the dangers of women — on YouTube shared by Meyerbeer Smith:
The above is based on the National Button Society's Classification System.
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