BOSTON — Starting in his teens, René Lalique created masterpieces of Art Nouveau jewelry for about a decade before turning exclusively to glass.
“Imperishable Beauty: Art Nouveau Jewelry,” running through Nov. 9 at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, has as its backbone many Laliques from the private holdings of an anonymous Philadelphia couple who have collected them for five decades. More than half the pieces exhibited have never been shown publicly.
The show includes works created all over Europe, Russia and the U.S. during the period that spans from about 1880 through 1910, but the finest designs came out of France by Lalique, Louis Aucoc, Charles Desrosiers, and their Belgian contemporary, Philippe Wolfers. The show’s few Louis Comfort Tiffany pieces, made for a more conservative U.S. audience, look clunky by comparison.
“France had the full-blown expression of the period,” said Yvonne Markowitz, the MFA’s curator of jewelry. “These pieces weren’t just for the elite, but really for the avant-garde elite. A lot of actresses were patrons of these jewelers.”
Breaking with an Edwardian preference for diamonds and platinum, Art Nouveau masters used translucent slices of horn, enamels, colored gems such as rubies and peridots and all kinds of irregular pearls. Desrosiers used natural Baroque, mabe and dogtooth pearls, commonly discarded as junk in the era, in his Orchid Brooch from 1901. If Art Nouveau designers used diamonds at all, it was as accents to create the suggestion of dew on a dragonfly’s wings, for example.
Enamel was used in a painterly way that swirled colors together to create iridescent surfaces. Plique-à-jour, a specialty of the period, was fired without metal backing, making it translucent like stained glass. Wolfers used the technique to create the brittle, ethereal wings of his Dragonfly Pendant-Brooch (1904).
Art Nouveau also had a lesser-known Goth side. Amid the familiar motifs of lily pads, lotus blossoms and maidens, there are plenty of creepy-crawlies twined in sinuous curves. Lucien Gaillard’s Beetle Necklace (1900) features a large beetle with an enameled green shell strung on an oxidized silver chain with faceted segments that recall the jointed legs and pincers. Lalique created brooches with wasps and necklaces out of enameled thorns set with orange topaz.
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast