Two hundred years of history mark the rare, discreet and naturalistic heritage of one of Paris's most charming jewelry houses.
Vever. Yellow gold cruciform pendant brooch mounted with a blue-grey star sapphire cabochon highlighted by three platinum finials set with rose-cut diamonds, plique-à-jour enameled lanceolate frames, adaptable pin, h. 6.5 cm/2.55 in, 22.82 g/0.80 oz.
Thursday, December 6, 2018, Room 15 - Hôtel Drouot. Fraysse & Associés OVV. Cabinet Déchaut-Stetten & Associés.
As the nineteenth century faded into the twentieth, what quickly set Henri Vever apart from his contemporaries was his fervor for Art Nouveau, a passion he shared with René Lalique, one of his first collaborators. His creed was simple: “Out with Louis XV [style]”. Bordering on symbolism and allegory, the jeweler's motifs, from flowers to elves, butterfly women and nymphs, were similar to those of contemporary painters such as Puvis de Chavannes and Gustave Moreau. The line is thin and delicate, the subject always dreamlike. Vever won the top prizes for excellence at the Paris and Brussels universal exhibitions. Unlike the market’s other great names, he cultivated his secret garden, composed of eclectic materials such as horn, ivory, enamel and hardstones.
With his jewelry, grace was always in the air and women knew it, starting with the most spellbinding diva of the time, La Belle Otero (Carolina Otero 1868-1965). The incendiary Andalusian actress, dancer and courtesan set Paris afire and her appearances on glossy paper, immortalized by the Rutlinger Studio, pushed up the prices of Vever’s jewelry and increased their popularity. Looking angelic and deceptively naive, she is wearing a crown of fresh flowers, her neck entirely swathed with Vever jewelry resembling bouquets of spring blooms.
An Obsession With Lightness
Vever’s sons took over his highly successful shop at 19 rue de la Paix, continuing to leverage the model established by their father and soaking up cultural influences in the air, which took them to Japan. They owned one of the world’s largest collections of Japanese prints, and drew inspiration from Asia’s naturalist, still 'exotic' themes. A comb surmounted by a translucent enamel cyclamen flower exudes a hint of Zen and meditative calm. The frames are ethereal, the jewels dance on a wire. All of Vever’s artistry lies in the sketches and drawings. The pendant brooch, one of the house’s signature pieces, features the portrait of a half-woman, half-dragonfly, its most beautiful profile sheathed in matte enamel with the lifelike appearance of velvety soft skin, a technique the jeweler used very often. It could be Sarah Bernhardt or another muse of the moment captured by Mucha, the most popular Art Nouveau artist, whose talent Vever could not ignore.
The jeweler had probably become a prisoner of his passion for Art Nouveau, the short-lived movement overtaken by Art Deco in the 1920s. Scrolls were out, geometric patterns were in. Henri Vever passed the baton and donated his private collection to the musée des Arts décoratifs (MAD) in Paris. The business managed to scrape by, becoming an under-the-radar meeting place for Art Nouveau fans whose tradition its great-grandson’s founder carried on against all odds, but in 1982 it finally was forced to close. However, the seventh generation, Camille and Damien Vever, have breathed new life into the sleeping beauty. They leveraged the house’s awesome stylistic heritage, whose symbol is the part-fauna, part-flora woman: a bold, clearly identifiable positioning that stands out from the surrounding jewelryscape and heralds the revival of Art Nouveau.