Openwork enamel was the favorite process of art nouveau jewelers such as Bréant and Coulbeaux, to whom this brooch is attributed.
Attributed to Bréant (?-1921) and Coulbeaux (1853-?), Art Nouveau yellow gold brooch with openwork enamel foliage décor, 98 rose-cut diamonds and six pink-shaded baroque pearls decorated with removable ivy leaves, 6.56 x 5.72 cm/2.59 x 2.26 in), weight 13 g/0.45 oz.
Early 20th-century designers drew inspiration from nature’s whimsical shapes. Ivy, the pretty climbing vine that wraps around tree trunks, becoming a symbol of eternal loyalty and affection, lent its undulations and evergreen leaves to Henri Bréant and Alfred Coulbeaux, surrounded by baroque pearls and a more restrained line of diamonds. After Bréant and Coulbeaux became partners in 1884, they won the gold medals at the 1885 and 1889 Antwerp and Paris Universal Exhibitions.
As their settings indicate, they were purveyors to the Austro-Hungarian Embassy. They also made the bronze base of an Émile Gallé vase displayed at the 1900 Paris Universal Exhibition and contributed to the centerpiece created for the Russian sovereigns’ 1896 state visit to France, on which other great jewelers and goldsmiths, including Vever Frères, Le Turcq and Desprès, also collaborated.
There is little information about them in the first decade of the 20th century. However, a legal announcement in the press mentions a court-ordered declaration of bankruptcy on March 19, 1908, and subsequent liquidation. Ivy is associated with Bacchus because it can soothe hangovers when brewed like tea.