The emergence of Japonism with Lalique
This exquisite turn-of-the-century pendant with its long chain illustrates René Lalique's inventiveness and his use of faraway influences for inspiration.
René Lalique (1860-1945), "Wisteria" pendant and chain, c. 1899-1901, 18 ct yellow gold and polychrome champlevé enamels, length of pendant: 7 cm, weight: 73.85 g.
His refined craftsmanship charmed a star, Gina Lollobrigida, although it is not certain this pendant and chain belonged to her. A unique piece created between 1899 and 1901, this jewel illustrates René Lalique's singular style, first and foremost through his materials. In the 1880s, Lalique began to stand apart from Boucheron by working with innovative substances like ivory horn, enamel, pearl, mother-of-pearl and semi-precious stones. He used materials to serve design and form, emphasizing craftsmanship rather than the value of the medium. He reproduced the fauna and flora of his childhood world, with irises, orchids, magnolias, cherry blossom, poppies, bats, dragonflies, wasps, swans, butterflies and the like. Here the subject is wisteria. If the message of this blossom in the language of flowers is to claim another's love, its white variety expresses reciprocal trust. Claude Monet and Edmond Rostand helped to popularise the plant in their gardens. Meanwhile, Lalique's fondness for the flower continued for several decades. In 1920, he created the "Wisteria" bottle, with a long, delicate blossom wandering all over it, and nearly a century later, in 2016, the same factory reinterpreted this design in vases and bowls. It is from the Japanese artistic vocabulary, revealed to the Western world on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1867, that Art Nouveau borrows its floral motifs. This was a potent event for French artists. Their thirst for creation was slaked by the poetic refinement of the Japanese arts, with their huge variety of themes, pastel palette and focus on artisanal work. The desire for Japanese art and culture permeated the Parisian smart set. The Louvre received Japanese works in 1884 through Adolphe Thiers' legacy; Pierre Loti published Madame Chrysanthème in 1887; the Musée Guimet opened in 1889, and for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, the dealer Hayashi Tadamasa imported masterpieces from Japan, including several items from Emperor Meiji's collection.