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René Lalique "Iris" Bracelet

Created in 1897, this highly important René Lalique Art Nouveau iris bracelet is composed of 18K gold, shaped opals, and enamel. It is formed of five large links of high relief, each designed as a basse taille enamel iris in shades of purple and violet, with varying subtle green and blue undertones, variously framed by opal panels and negative spaces, within flowing and sinuous surrounds of chased and engraved gold leaves. A fusion of French sensibility and masterful technique with the transformative influence of Japanese art, this beautiful work is one of Lalique's first jewels to act as a powerful conduit of Art Nouveau ideas.

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  • Product Details
  • Curator's Notes

Item #: BA-21459
Artist: René Lalique
Country: France
Circa: 1897
Dimensions: 6.75" length, 2" width.
Materials: 23 shaped precious opals; Basse taille enamel; 18K Gold; With original signed and fitted brown Morocco box with address for 20 Rue Thérèse
Signed: LALIQUE; maker's mark; French assay marks
Exhibition History: Masterpieces of 20th Century French Jewelry, The Forbes Galleries, New York, September 20-December 31, 2006, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, February 10-June 10, 2007, Catalonia. p. 36. Art Nouveau 1890-1914, V&A, London, April 6-July 30, 2000, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., October 2000-January 28, 2001, Catalogue p. 28, Item 15.3 The Jewels of Lalique, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution, New York, February 3-April 12, 1998, International Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. May15-August 16, 1998, and Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, September 13, 1998-January 10, 1999, Catalogue p. 17, Item 53. René Lalique, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, October 22, 1991- March 8, 1992, Item 225. The Belle Époque of French Jewelry 1850-1910, Bayerische’s Nationalmuseum, Munich, December 1, 1989-March 4, 1990, Catalogue p. 219.
Literature: According to Vever, the bracelet was exhibited in the Salon of 1897 where Lalique was awarded a first class medal. Also: Art et Décoration, 6, 1899, p. 16. Revue des Arts Décoratifs 20, 1900, p. 243. Henri Vever, French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century, 1906-1908, vol. 3, p. 707. René Lalique: Schmuck und Objets d’Art, 1890-1910, by Sigrid Barten, 1977, p. 447, cat. no. 1239 and 1239A. The Belle Époque of French Jewelry 1850-1910, Michael Koch, Evelyn Possémé, et al., 1989, pp. 218-219. The Jewels of Lalique, Yvonne Brunhammer, ed., 1998, p. 16.

Not seen in public for twenty years, René Lalique’s storied iris bracelet, first exhibited in the 1897 Champs-Élysees salons, is one of the artist’s most evocative Art Nouveau masterworks. The iris, a beloved and enduring motif in Japanese art, is integral to the French identify and culture, both as an enduring symbol of the national history, and of its Catholic faith centering on Mary. However, this profound jewel successfully conveys more - a unique sense of movement, rich symbolism, and the intellectual insights inherent in Japanese-inspired naturalism. Lalique gave the typically symmetrical, repetitive form of the bracelet directionality, depicting the blossoms and leaves as though tumbling forward and to the right in a fresh wind, conjuring the presence of the invisible. Using fragmented but powerful details to represent the whole, Lalique employed precious opal with its translucency and flashes of orange and blue fire to suggest a location for the small, passing drama - a scene by a body of water, favored ground for irises, its surface reflecting evanescent sunset colors. The slightly differing life stages of the flowers, from freshly bloomed to fading, evoke themes of passing beauty and transience. Emphasizing naturalism, asymmetry, and negative spaces, Lalique applied principles of Japanese art to convey nature’s essence through select details, inspiring Gallé’s comment that these 1897 creations had “prepared the way…for the modern bijoux.”