Nov. 11 Art Minute: René Lalique, “Poppy Necklace”

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Poppy Necklace

René Lalique (French, 1860–1945), Poppy Necklace. Patinated glass, enamel, gold, rose–cut diamonds, about 1900–1903. Pendant: 2 7/8 inches, chain: 22 1/1 inches. Mr. and Mrs. George M. Jones, Jr., Fund, 1995.13. Gallery 34

The flowing curves and naturalism of this expressive floral pendant define it as a quintessential jewel of the Art Nouveau style. It was designed and produced by the French artist-jeweler René Lalique, who had operated a studio in Paris since 1890. Trained in Paris and London within the rigid practices of the nineteenth-century goldsmith’s trade, he emerged as a leading jeweler of the Belle Époque—the glittering era of peace and prosperity that marked the period between the end of the Franco-Prussian War (1871) and the beginning of World War I (1914).

Lalique’s innovative designs were in stark contrast to traditional conventions and attracted an elite clientele with modern, esoteric tastes. His designs in the Art Nouveau style are radical departures in concept, trading a traditional emphasis on gemstones for a unified design. Precious materials such as gold and diamonds are used alongside enamel and glass, all equally subordinate to the overall aesthetic idea. Inspired by Japanese art, Lalique distilled the aesthetic essence of nature, from the humblest plants and insects, with keen observation. In this necklace, the delicate wildflower design is fashioned from traditional gold and diamonds that are combined with the subtle use of email for the leaves and mold-formed, translucent glass for the petals to achieve a naturalistic effect. The poppy, or anemone, pendant can be removed from the chain and worn as a brooch.

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