Two inspired visions: Japan for Lalique in the early 20th century, China for Cartier 80 years later
René Lalique (1860-1945), Quatre libellules (Four dragonflies), 18-carat yellow gold brooch, antique cut diamonds, polychrome plique-à-jour enamel, pendant cushion-shaped and oval aquamarines, 18-carat rose gold pin, c. 1900, 7.48 x 11.75 cm (2.9 x 4.6 in).
Art Nouveau designers practically worshipped this beautiful insect, which daintily landed on the cover of the November 13 Gazette (entitled A Lalique Dragonfly) before buzzing off to a new home for €292,100. The precious brooch was made of yellow gold, plique-à-jour enamel, aquamarines and diamonds by René Lalique (1860-1945), one of the period’s most emblematic artists. He drew his inspiration from a distant source, Japan, which had been all the rage throughout Europe since 1867. But only a few people could turn the craze for “japonisme” into a masterpiece, and Lalique was one of them. His brooch was the most beautiful but not the only piece of jewelry from several private collections featured at the two-day auction, which ended with a total result of €1,100,545 and over 90% of lots sold. The two gold rigid open bracelets by Cartier were less expected than the Lalique brooch to soar past their estimates, but they did. The bracelet set with white and yellow diamonds in the late 1980s fetched €111,760, while the one adorned with rubies and diamonds around 1990 sold for €88,900. Both feature two Chimeras, a phantasmagorical creature in Chinese mythology. Cartier began adding this symbol of longevity to its ornamental vocabulary in the 1920s, ceaselessly offering new creations with various color combinations ever since.