Exhibition review – René Lalique, Bijoux d’exception 1890 – 1912…

by Abigail Percy on 16/03/2007

in Jewellery+Accessories

Musee du Luxembourg, Paris

Having just returned home from a week in Paris – I thought I would share with you all a wonderful exhibition I saw whilst there…’René Lalique – Bijoux d’exception’ on show at the Musee du Luxembourg until the end of July this year.
I went on the first day and it was just stunning! René Lalique is perhaps best known now for his glass but his jewellery is every bit as beautiful and striking…and to me {as a jeweller}, much more interesting ;)

Haircomb – Bone, Gold, Diamonds – paint-up

What was most fascinating for me was to see such a great number of Laliques’ own sketches, designs and paint-ups [a traditional technique for depicting jewellery where you paint the item to scale in perfect detail, so it looks like you could pick it up…mostly executed in ink, watercolour and gouache]…when in the modern world, jewellers and designers are increasingly using the crude and personality-less method of computer rendering rather than drawing by hand and keeping this tradition alive. Seeing this work – which looks as fresh and invigorating as the day it was painted, really is a breath of fresh air.

Haircomb – Bone, Gold, Diamonds

The exhibition itself was quite small {and as such, really manageable}, just three medium sizes rooms {beautifully air-conditioned to protect the work!}…the content equally split between his drawings and design work [displayed flat on the wall] and his jewellery [in cases, both wall mounted and in floor cases where you have to peer deep within to see the treasures]. A lovely touch that was added curation-wise was the inclusion of some other items, such as Japanese decorative iron sword parts {you know the ones that look like belt buckles!?}, photographs, and other objects d’art from the era…which all served to give the work an excellent sense of time and context within design as a whole.

Paint-up … watercolour, ink, crayon

What I couldn’t get over was the stunning and absolute level of extreme skill involved in creating these pieces – and also the scale. Many of the pieces are tiny, and often in catalogues or books, you never really can appreciate how intricate and amazing the pieces are. It is hands down one of the best ‘historical’ exhibitions I have ever seen – and as I write this I am wishing I could nip back for another look!! I would urge anyone who could possibly see this to do so – the collection of work has been brought together from all over the world {many of the pieces being in private collections} and really does make for the most splendid group!

10 Euros to enter, and the exhibition runs from the 7th of March – 29th July 2007. Catalogue, available only in French, is 39 Euros.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

1 susan March 16, 2007 at 1:21 am

how stunning! thank you!


2 Jess March 16, 2007 at 2:53 am

Yes. So beautiful. I don’t know this designer…I’m guessing art nouveau period?


3 Jess March 16, 2007 at 2:54 am

Oh. Duh. It’s in the title of the post. :)


4 Abigail March 16, 2007 at 4:06 am

Hi Susam – glad you liked reading about it.

Jess – yes, he is pretty much the most famous jeweller /glass artist of the art nouveau movement….there are some amazing books out about him too if you want to see more. Pleased to be able to introduce his work to you! :)


5 Marie March 16, 2007 at 8:17 am

“The Jewels of Lalique” is a gorgeous book centering on his jewelry. It’s one of the prides of my collection of art books, along with Vivienne Becker’s “Art Nouveau Jewelry”.


6 Esclarmonde March 16, 2007 at 4:22 pm

Indeed it’s a wonderful exhibition ! There is also a CD from a special concert/reading with music from the same period and poems read by famous french actors.


7 michelle March 17, 2007 at 12:24 am

thank you for sharing that, sounds amazing! wish i could go! :)


8 Sue April 26, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Hello Abigail,
I too saw this amazing exhibit when I was in Paris in March. I made a few notes in my journal, planning to see–when I had more time back home– if there was a poem somewhere in them. Now I’m reviewing them, and wish I’d made more careful notes on the written material that accompanied the pieces. What I remember–if I’ve got this right–is that Lalique would first make a drawing, then do a clay model, then cast a trial piece in bronze, and then do the final piece. Is this a way that jewelers (or at least very meticulous jewelers, or at least Lalique) would work?


9 Rosemary August 3, 2011 at 5:58 pm

I had my ah ha moment when I saw his exhibit in Wash. DC.in 2008. I could have stayed all day. It was beyond words. I read every caption on every piece. I bought the book and I continue to look at it often. He was a master in glass, jewelry, fabric wood etc.


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