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Fine & Decorative Art

Art Nouveau Pendant by Gautrait

Art Nouveau Pendant by Gautrait
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Art Nouveau Pendant

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This Art Nouveau pendant of a peacock in tooled and pierced yellow gold, was made circa 1900 by Lucien Gautrait, in Paris. Featuring yellow gold, enamel, emerald, sapphire, diamond, and natural saltwater pearl, this Art Nouveau pendant is a tour–de–force of the jewelers art at the turn of the 20th century. Decorated with white, green, and blue enamel, in the plique–à–jour technique of translucent enamel set into open windows. A large suspended near–round natural saltwater pearl measuring 8.5mm completes the necklace. The pendant is marked, L. Gautrait (Lucien Gautrait, 1865–1937), and also with a French gold assay mark.

Lucien Gautrait was a well known jewelry designer of the Art Nouveau Period, who is frequently associated with the Parisian jeweler Leon Gariod. A matching Art Nouveau pendant, but with an opal drop rather than a pearl drop, is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum. The pendant at the Victoria & Albert was purchased in Paris by the Museum in 1901 from the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français. The V&A Museum catalog notes, “other versions of this jewel are known to exist.”

The necklace originally belonged to an important family in Southern California, and was purchased in Paris, circa 1900. A photograph exists that shows the necklace being worn by the original owner. Along with the Art Nouveau pendant, the dress pictured in the photograph, is also in the client’s possession.

Unlike the names for many other historical styles, which were used to describe a style long after it was created, the term Art Nouveau was actually used to describe the style while it was in vogue. The term was coined by the Parisian retailer Bing, who was the foremost proponent of the new style. For a brief window of time at the turn of the 20th century, Art Nouveau was everywhere, not only in jewelery design, but also in furniture, poster art, glass design, ceramics, ironwork, and architecture.

Some of the major figures of the Art Nouveau period were Louis Marjorelle, the furniture designer; Émile Gallé, the pre–eminent artist of glass in the town of Nancy; Hector Guimard, designer of the entrance to the Paris Metro; and Victor Horta, the Belgian architect, whose structures such as the Horta Museum and Tassel House still stand in Brussels.

Culturally and artistically, Art Nouveau proved to be a cul–de–sac. The style emphasised naturalism, the romantic pursuit of beauty for beauty’s sake, and the re–interpretation of historical styles. Newer styles and modernist movements of the early 20th century such as cubism, dada, futurism, and expressionism broke sharply with the Art Nouveau ethos. Yet it can not be denied, that the period created works of timeless beauty we can still appreciate.