The exhibition, presented by the Decorative Arts Museum in partnership with the Maison Van Cleef & Arpels, retraces over one century of the French firm’s history since its beginnings in 1906 at 22 place Vendôme in Paris.In the Nef (Nave) of the museum over 500 pieces of jewellery and objects, as well as numerous archive documents, drawings and reviews from the 1920s, have been gathered together to collectively bear witness to the richness of its heritage.
Excellence and extraordinary creativity are exhibited throughout a history punctuated by technical inventions transmitted from generation to generation of exceptional craftsmen or “Golden Hands”, guided by their search for perfection. The secrecy of the technical know-how together with the very free rein given to the imagination and sources of inspiration of the craftsmen are at the root of the fabulous profusion of forms and models to be found.
The visit of the exhibition is both chronological and thematic and thus enables the discovery of major creations which have marked their decades whilst at the same time underlining the permanence of flagship creations whose forms have been constantly renewed.
All the daring of the 400 prestigious creations of this legendary jewellery house are shown with archive documents and drawings, in an exhibition design by Jouin-Manku. The history of Van Cleef & Arpels is studded with technical inventions handed down from generation to generation. This savoir-faire, always kept secret, combined with imagination and very free sources of inspiration, fuelled its formidable production of forms and models.
Among the constant sources of inspiration – flora, fauna and abstract motifs – certain themes are emblematic of Van Cleef & Arpels’ originality: Egyptomania, the ‘Roses’ bracelet that won the Grand Prix at the International Exposition in 1925, and the pieces inspired by textiles – lace, knots, soft furnishings, drapery, tulle – have been constantly reinterpreted down the decades, as has the invention of the Serti Mystérieux.
The transformable jewellery and the minaudière bag were invented in the 1930s. The Van Cleef & Arpels image is still epitomised by the famous ‘Zip’ necklace, the first of which was inspired by the Duchess of Windsor and made in 1951, like the many variations of the chain necklace in the 1970s, including ‘l’Alhambra’, still just as popular forty years after its creation.
Subtly mixing values and styles, Van Cleef & Arpels is continuing to stamp its signature on the jewellery world, particularly with the Jules Verne collection, directed by Alfredo Arias at the Biennale des Antiquaires in 2010, and the latest collection, Bals de Légende, inspired by the memorable society balls of the last century. A signature whose hallmark is legendary mastery and savoir-faire, a passionate love of precious stones and a taste for innovation and metamorphosis.
An unprecedent exhibition not to be missed.
Photos Credits: : © Patrick Gries / Van Cleef & Arpels
Les Arts Décoratifs
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