Firmament Apollinien Tiara, La Nature de Chaumet ... Firmament Apollinien Tiara, La Nature de Chaumet

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  • Firmament Apollinien Tiara, La Nature de Chaumet collection, 2016.

  • From July 12 until August 20, it may be a good idea to divert your plane towards Nice’s Côte D’Azur airport and head to The Grimaldi Forum in Monaco. This is where an exceptional exhibi- tion by Chaumet under the High Patronage of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco is to be held.

    The ‘Chaumet in Majesty – Jewels of Sovereigns since 1780’ follows on from the Imperial Splendours: The Art of Jewellery Since the 18th Century exhibition organized by Chaumet in conjunction with the Palace Museum in Beijing’s Forbidden City and the retrospective exhibi- tion held at the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum in Tokyo – The Worlds of Chaumet: The Art of Jewellery Since 1780, which both took place in 2017.

    Needless to say, this is an unmissable opportu- nity to delve into the rich history of the French house and view some 250 rare treasures lent by prestigious international collections, includ- ing that of His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco and Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, as well as those of museums from all over the world. And by ‘rare treasures’, we mean the most iconic of all of Chaumet’s repertoire: diadems and tiaras. No other cre- ations have helped define Chaumet’s legacy better than these ultimate status ornaments,

    and their evolution through time is inextrica- bly linked to the house’s own history. Beyond the mere study of their extraordinary designs, each tiara and diadem marks a political, his- torical and societal main event. As a result, ‘Chaumet in Majesty – Jewels of Sovereigns since 1780’ is more than meets the eye; it is a tantalising journey through French aristocra- cy, European and beyond royal courts and pa- pal appointments. Here is a glimpse of what awaits you. Be prepared to time travel and be dazzled by utter refinement.

    “Gothic” belt (with detachable antique cameo) belonging to Empress Marie-Louise and by

    François-Regnault Nitot (1779–1853) 1813; Gold, natural pearls, onyx, L. 83

    cm; Chaumet Collection, Paris

  • The exhibition ‘Chaumet in Majesty – Jewels of Sovereigns Since 1780’ is orchestrated by two curators with re- nowned expertise of royal courts – Stéphane Bern, a French media and cul- tural figure, and Christophe Vachaudez, a French historian specialising in jew- ellery – and built around six chapters or moments. In each of those, an array of prime tiaras and diadems alongside precious heritage artefacts, portraits, drawings albums and photographic re- cords are presented in their historical context.

    ‘The Origins of a Legend’ opens the show by displaying hundreds of histor- ical models in nickel silver, an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel, also known as maillechorts, which rapidly was adopt- ed by metal craftsmen in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is Joseph Chaumet (at the helm of the Maison around 1890), who elected the making of nickel-silver maquettes as an essen- tial step in the creative process.

    Chaumet’s Diadem Room at 12 Place Vendôme in Paris, where

    the collection of historical nickel silver models is exhibited.

  • Tiaras and diadems have taken on many sym- bols throughout history, yet embodied one at all times: ‘The Tiara as Symbol of Power’, this comprises the second chapter of the exhibi- tion. Indeed, there is no other better signifi- er of power and prestige, and although it can be considered as a fashion accessory, it has however never departed from its function as an emblem of status, wealth and success.

    In Chaumet’s history, which is didactically explained throughout the exhibition, a par- amount and defining episode was of course Marie-Étienne Nitot’s (1750–1809) relation- ship with Napoléon I (who chose tiaras to “express the grandeur and magnificence of his reign”) and subsequent work from 1805 for Empress Joséphine, Chaumet’s first great client. Appointed “Jeweller in Ordinary” and

    “Jeweller to T.R.H. the Emperor and Empress”, Nitot was the only practitioner allowed to vis- it the Empress once a week when Napoléon I decided to rein in his wife’s expenses.

    The Nitot father and son continued to be highly sought after from 1810, following the remarriage of Napoléon to Marie-Louise of Habsburg-Lorraine, Archduchess of Austria and grand-niece of Marie-Antoinette. “Orders for ceremonial jewels as well as sentimental jewels for the new empress followed in suc- cession at a frantic pace, incorporating the most beautiful gems and pearls”. Desirous to preserve a copy of it, Nitot made a repli- ca of a sumptuous parure of oriental rubies and diamonds (following spread) delivered in 1811 and comprising a tiara, comb, coro- net, necklace, drop earrings and bracelets.

    Wheat-Ear Tiara by François- Regnault Nitot (1779– 1853) Circa 1811; gold, silver, diamonds; H. 6.5 cm, W. 15 cm; Chaumet Collection, Paris.

  • Two pieces from the replica of the ruby and diamond parure belonging to Empress Marie-Louise; Circa 1811 – Gold, silver, white sapphires, zircon and garnets. Tiara H. 8.5 cm; D. 19 cm.; Comb H. 12.5 cm; L. 16 cm; Coronet D. 14.4 cm; Necklace D. 24 cm. Girandole Earrings H. 5 cm; L. 3 cm each. Bracelets L. 18 cm each. Paris, Chaumet Collection © Nils Hermann – Chaumet.

  • Baroque Pearl Tiara, Chaumet, circa 1930, (loaned on many occasions to Princess Isabelle d’Orléans- Braganza, the Countess of Paris); platinum, natural

    pearls, diamonds H. 6 cm, W. 15 cm; Chaumet Collection, Paris.

  • There is no better way to capture an im- portant and intimate moment than by asso- ciating it with the offering of one (or more) fine jewel. Nothing spells ‘precious moment’ more than an actual precious token; an heir- loom that will be passed down from gener- ation to generation so that the memory will live on. The meaning of love and devotion is one of Chaumet’s signatures, which has made the French house synonymous with sentimental jewellery, and this is reflected in the title of the third chapter of the ex- hibition, ‘The Tiara, the Crowning of Love’. Indeed, the joaillier has been the go-to house for anyone, famous or not, to have ceremo- nial or private, elaborate or discreet, always celebratory pieces made, since 1780.

    From a small charm or medallion to the most lavish corbeille de marriage (an old French tradition that sees the groom officialise his engagement by offering his soon-to-be wife a basket filled with jewels and other delights), Chaumet has famously catered to anyone who has wanted his or her emo- tion to be captured in a jewellery object. So many milestones in a lifetime (although some traditions may have fallen into disuse – such as ‘morning gifts’, traditionally of- fered on the day after the wedding night – tiaras are still the main engagement gift in today’s high society wedding baskets); so few ways of seizing any fleeting moment, other than sealing the joyous sentiment in a precious keepsake.

    Clover brooch belonging to Empress Eugénie (second version), Jules Fossin (1808–1869); 1853; gold, silver, diamonds, translucent green enamel H. 3.7 cm, W. 3.4 cm; Private collection.

  • Due to their significance, the ultimate heir- looms that are tiaras and diadems fall in- to the category of heraldic jewels that are handed down and kept as long as possible in the family realm. They indeed possess the unique attributes attached to a grand family and as such act as a seal of right of passage. In a more pragmatic sense, this longevity in the family tree means that tiaras and dia- dems may be updated with a design more in line with the times, when not simply entire- ly re-imagined or broken apart to be shared, but in any case, it had to come with the pos- sibility of transformation. That way tiaras – whose occasions for wear are infrequent – could become a necklace, bracelet or sev- eral brooches. This is the theme of the fourth chapter, ‘Transmission and Transformation’.

    A prime example is the Leuchtenberg Tiara. “The exceptional provenance of this tiara, once part of the collections of George, Duke of Leuchtenberg, grandson of Eugène de Beauharnais and great grandson of Empress Joséphine, confirms its attribu- tion to Nitot, in accordance with the family tradition. According to this same tradition, this tiara, transformable into a brooch, was the property of Queen Hortense, daughter of Joséphine and sister of Eugène. While it appears to have been acquired under the First Empire, the piece was probably mod- ified between 1830 and 1840 by Fossin, Nitot’s successor, to better correspond to the Romantic style, as reflected in its deli- cate floral design.” (excerpt from the cata- logue of the exhibition).

    Leuchtenberg Tiara, transformable into a brooch and hair ornaments, by Jean- Baptiste Fossin (1786–1848) Circa 1830–40; Gold, silver, emeralds, diamonds, H. 9 cm, W. 14 cm; Chaumet Collection, Paris.

  • As mentioned earlier, tiaras and dia- dems follow the fashion of the times, but most importantly the zeitgeist of sym- bols. Consequently, the chronological study of these jewels sheds a light on where and when some of the most en- during symbols have become common beliefs. ‘Symbolic Variations’ explores this topic. Of all the symbols that could represent the love