Category Archives: Art Nouveau

A René Lalique Hair Comb: The Visible and the Invisible

In 1900, enchanted observers marveled at how light played with color, as it reflected off leaves or the wings of a dragonfly.

However, unlike moths, dragonflies don’t navigate by the light of the moon. Instead, they use sunlight’s energy on their wings to fly. Dragonflies swarm with predatory precision, catching mosquitos with their feet. Indeed, one dragonfly can eat from 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes per day. If they can’t fly, they’ll starve. Lalique knew this and would not transform voracious killer-gangs into angelic creatures. He created swarms.

In this famous tiara, c. 1900, it looks as if the dragonflies are pursuing light, a faceted aquamarine, because they are all going in the same direction. This is not the case. Lalique was trying to show how beams of “sunlight” from the aquamarine shined down on the dragonflies’ wings to give them energy. Look at how the wings change color, and draw diagonal lines from the aquamarine to the plique-a-jour enamel.

Just as the tiara had fittings that allowed it to be worn as a brooch, so this hair comb had a chain fitting so it could be worn as a necklace. Also made c. 1900, it sold at Sotheby’s on 18 May 2018 for $262,269. In this comb, six dragonflies in a swarm go in three different directions instead of just one. The light source: a citrine. Again, look at how the light source changes the color of the wings.

French Art Nouveau was a combination of the Japanese aesthetic, where perspective was executed precisely, and French Symbolism, which elongated things to express a poetic idea. However, in both this tiara and hair comb, the insects are not stretched to make you think differently about them. So where is the French Symbolism? The elongation lies in the beams of light emanating from the jewel.

By seeing what is visible, Lalique is making you see what is invisible. These pieces portray the energy field of light, which gives flight to a dragonfly. To understand them, you must look at them with two different sets of eyes.

कंघी

References:


The Jewels of Lalique

Okazaki Collection:
Combs and Ornamental Hairpins

Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu

The Hair Comb Market

There are so many beautiful things for sale, each with their own story, that to condense a post into one subject is difficult. So I have a buffet of things today. Just click the picture or link to see more details about each item. In the Sotheby’s Unsold category: On 6 December 2002, this Henri…Continue Reading

Lalique Hair Combs and Tiaras

Victorian diamond brooches came with different settings, so they could be worn separately or together as a tiara. Art Nouveau brooches could also serve multiple purposes. Indeed, some were designed as a tiara and ended up as a brooch. Such is the case with this bee-and-flower ornament designed by Rene Lalique in 1905/6. A pencil-and-ink…Continue Reading

Auctions at Drouot: Art Nouveau Locusts — SOLD, for 141,000 euros

They jumped into history with no name. The auction curators at Drouot had no idea who made these realistic plique-a-jour enamel locusts with diamond lines, set in gold, so they estimated their value at 6500 euros. In the description, Drouot wondered if the locusts were destined to adorn a hairstyle or ornament a corsage. Even…Continue Reading

Lluís Masriera and Modernisme in Catalonia

Art Nouveau’s main ingredients were the Symbolists, who believed that art should reflect the truth indirectly as if in a dream; the flat perspective and strong colors of Japanese wood block prints; and Japanese organic forms and representations of nature. Out came the curvilinear forms of Art Nouveau, which lasted only 20 years (1890-1910). In…Continue Reading

Lalique Tiaras: From God to a Rooster’s Breakfast

The setting of gems is profound meditation. How can a tiara or crown give its wearer the verisimilitude of God on Earth? Rene Lalique couldn’t care less. He transformed the appearance of jewelry with new themes. Combining French Symbolist philosophy with ideas from Japanese art, he incorporated gem setting into raptors’ claws in this comb,…Continue Reading

Lalique’s Berenice Tiara

Although a revelation to some, Lalique designed tiaras for actresses other than Sarah Bernhardt. One of his most eloquent pieces was made for Julia Bartet, who starred in Jean Racine’s Bérénice at the Comédie-Française in 1893. The perfect material for theatre props, Lalique used an aluminum frame, which was shaped into lotus flowers and openwork…Continue Reading

Mellerio dits Meller

Mellerio dits Meller is the oldest family-owned jewelry company in Europe, spanning 14 generations. In 1515, the first Mr. Mellerio left Italy for Paris because he heard there was opportunity there. His family started the company in 1613. As Jean-Baptiste Mellerio was vending his wares in front of the Château de Versailles, he attracted the…Continue Reading