03 November 2020
Reading “Jean Dunand”
This book on Jean Dunand, the great Art Deco artist, made me want to discover more about his jewelry.
This leading light of Art Deco is best known for his vases, screens and interiors, like the ones he designed for the liner Le Normandie. But Félix and Amélie Marcilhac offer a first: a selection of some fifty pieces (out of 1,800), with clasps, torques, bangles and watches, most with colorful geometric decoration. His jewelry has been very little studied and to date only the exhibition Bijoux Art Déco et Avant Garde has brought together about twenty of his pieces, thanks to the curators Laurence Mouillefarine and Evelyne Possémé.
The Dunand style
The son of a gold smelter, Jean Dunand applied the same techniques to jewelry as he did to his furniture and objects. The master in dinanderie made pieces from a single sheet of non-precious metal – copper, Oreum (a gold alloy), steel or brass –, which he inlaid with silver or mother-of-pearl, patinated with color or decorated with motifs in lacquer, his favorite material. He studied the secrets of this Oriental technique for protecting objects with the Japanese master Sugawara, and tirelessly perfected it for twenty years, employing Asian lacquerers.
Dunand and fashion
He had made struck metal jewelry for his wife and children before his artistic relationships with Elsa Schiaparelli, Madeleine Vionnet and Jeanne Lanvin undoubtedly encouraged him to develop it. For the milliner Madame Agnès, he covered hats with lacquer inlaid with micro-pieces of eggshell, forming a mosaic. He also decorated her living rooms and produced a sublime portrait of her in colored, gold and silver lacquer on a background of eggshell, in which she wears a dress in a fabric lacquered by him, as well as his torques and earrings with geometrical patterns.
Dunand and Josephine Baker
The book shows several lacquers, drawings and photographs of Josephine Baker wearing Dunand’s jewelry: bangles, an arc of a circle following the line of the ear (the ancestor of the ear cuff) and his famous “Giraffe” necklaces in Oreum. Decorated with Cubist motifs in red and black lacquer, these neck rings are reminiscent of African tribal ornaments. “This mix of decorative art, Africanism and fashion was highly innovative at the time,” says Laurence Mouillefarine. These iconic pieces are now in the collections of the Met and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Paris).
As a subject in their own right, Jean Dunand’s jewelry pieces, though few, certainly deserve a book.
Jean Dunand, Éditions Norma
To go further Bijoux Art Déco et Avant-Garde, Éditions Norma
Four Jean Dunand watches at Artcurial