It is a real honor to be the guest of the Artcurial catalogue, which documents the exceptional nature of the “Un hiver précieux sur le Rocher” sale, one of the most prestigious sales of the year, held at the Monaco Yacht Club. Below are the texts that I wrote especially for this catalogue.
I have always been fascinated by auction catalogues. Can we appreciate their true value? Far from being simple tools providing a perfect description of jewelry, together with estimates and session numbers; they also contain dreams and fantasies. In the words of French intellectual Roger Caillois, jewels are both “navigation and compass” – they both take us on a journey and are that journey’s destination.
In this catalogue, I see an eclecticism and an opulence found nowhere else except in museums. I’m not sure what I admire the most, the stones, the craftsmanship of the people who created them or the source of inspiration. How can I select just a few items from the hundreds on offer? I started by looking for a balance between eras, esthetic forms, colors and shapes, before being guided by my own tastes. As with any such list, there is an element of injustice, as other items could easily have warranted inclusion, including the “Lion ébouriffé” (tousled lion) by Van Cleef & Arpels and the Napoleon III necklace with cameos.
I found it interesting that these jewels were showcased by AlmaKarina photographers Tom and Karina. Their vision is as precise as it is poetic, stylish and compelling, and the result is jewelry in perfect harmony with the fundamental forces of nature. The beauty of their images is matched only by our astonishment.
“Feather” brooch, Boucheron
It is a real challenge to recreate the fragility and extreme lightness of a feather using such hard materials as gold and precious stones. In the 1960s, the Maison Boucheron worked large pieces, as if creating a sculpture. The diamond-enhanced down and barbules are so delicate they seem apt to quiver at the slightest breath of air. Over time, the feather became the perfect design for jewelers to demonstrate their skills and it is now the ultimate test, interpreted in a myriad ways.
Pendant brooch, Pol Bury
Fine moveable pins in the center of a concave mirror intrigue and remind us that this is the work of the artist Pol Bury. Influenced by Calder and considered one of the founders of kinetic art, Pol Bury’s works and jewels were based on appearances and illusions. This pendant brooch is a poetic experiment that examines imbalance even in the subtlest vibrations of movement.
Necklace, Suzanne Belperron
In its display case, this piece was labelled “Egyptian necklace”. It is impossible to say why, but one thing is sure – with a semi-circular shape underlined by a row of old-cut diamonds, this necklace symbolizes Suzanne Belperron’s love of ethnic jewelry. She often admired the pieces found in the Musée des Beaux-Arts et d’Archéologie in Besançon, where she studied. This necklace bears the hallmark of the Groëne et Darde workshop which created Suzanne Belperron’s most beautiful pieces until the early 1950s. This workshop played a fundamental role in her work, as it was the hands of its artisans that interpreted her designs through the creation of delicate settings and the way they worked the gold and conveyed the fluidity of a line of diamonds.
This ring is the work of the Italian jeweler Buccellati, nicknamed the “Prince of Goldsmiths” by Gabriele D’Annunzio. In the 19th century, Buccellati attempted to recreate the weave of the most delicate fabrics. Worked by the exquisite hands of the craftsmen, the embossed yellow, white and pink gold is extremely sophisticated and highly sensuous. It is texturized, sanded, engraved or polished. It is beaten, openworked and transformed into lace or mesh. It evokes silk damask worthy of the Italian Renaissance or linen that has developed a sheen over time. The delicately worked contemporary pieces bear the overtones of this eternal poetry.
Brooch, Johann Michael Wilm
What does this 1935 brooch tell us? This woven gold repoussé dome, its leaves studded with diamonds and pearls, is the work of jeweler Johann Michael Wilm, and transports us to Germany. Many people are unaware that Germany has a rich tradition of jewelry due to its precious stone and silver mines. The wealth of the Princes of Saxony was boosted by the operation of these mines and is still in evidence in the lavish curio cabinets and collections of jewelry, minerals and goldware on display in the “Green Vault” in Dresden.
“Snake” bracelet, anonymous
This 1950s snake bracelet, its body covered in chiseled gold scales, is so flexible that it can be stretched and rolled around the wrist three times. It is lascivious and sensual, with a disturbing beauty accentuated by a single oval sapphire eye surrounded by diamonds, and is perfect for those with strong personalities. In the history of jewelry, the reptile has always been the prerogative of demi-mondaines, actresses and disreputable women such as Sarah Bernhardt, Mata Hari and Elizabeth Taylor.