PARIS — Van Cleef & Arpels has brought a collection of intricate, gem-encrusted boxes from the Art Deco era to L’École, the School of Jewelry Arts in Paris, in the house’s latest effort to spread appreciation of its luxury trade among the broader public.
The exhibit, which runs from April 4 to 25, shows how the period’s most skilled jewelers blended Eastern and Western influences to make refined vanity cases for a generation that reveled in freedom.
Signed by Lacloche Frères, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, among others, they were gifts from Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan to his wife Princess Catherine, marking life passages over a nearly 30-year stretch. About half of the 100 pieces in the collection are being shown on this leg, the second of its trans-Atlantic tour.
It follows a stop at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, where they were part of a larger exhibit centered on the American jazz age.
Many of the pieces were fashioned just a stone’s throw from the show, on the Place Vendôme.
“It’s magic to have all these houses of the Place Vendôme here — both the existing ones and those that disappeared — returning to their source,” said Nicolas Luchsinger, who directs the heritage collection of Van Cleef & Arpels.
Luchsinger also highlighted the discrete and multicultural lifestyle of the collector, who died in 2003. Known for his work as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the Iranian prince had a French mother, was educated in the U.S. and spent much of his life in Switzerland.
Marie Vallanet-Delhom, president of L’École, noted that the institution tries to find themes that correspond to the interests of the public, usually settling on exhibits around a year ahead of time. She pointed to her favorite: a frosted vanity case carved from rock crystal, depicting a woman gazing at a flower while a message-bearing putto sneaks up from behind. The romantic scene of longing bridges Art Nouveau and Rococo periods with Art Deco, anchored by a geometric hinge and clasp.
Another piece shows a mountain landscape drawn in a mosaic of mother-of-pearl, set against a milky green enamel backdrop with black and diamond geometric accents. Signed Boucheron, it dates from around 1928.
Van Cleef & Arpels, which belongs to luxury group Compagnie Financière Richemont, set up the School of Jewelry Arts in 2012 as part of its ongoing focus on maintaining relevance in an age that favors experiences over objects.