Eugène Grasset (1845 - 1917)

Design for a Brooch Sold

Gouache and watercolour over a pencil underdrawing, on buff paper.
A number of pencil sketches for various elements of the brooch are drawn near the centre right edge of the sheet.
Signed with the artist’s monogram EG at the lower right.
Inscribed Eugene Grasset (?) Vever expo 1900 at the lower left edge of the sheet.
Further inscribed 11c.4, 9.8, and 8.2 at the upper right.
Numbered 4 in pencil on the verso.
101 x 140 mm. (4 x 5 1/2 in.) [image]
320 x 250 mm. (12 5/8 x 9 7/8 in.) [sheet]

ACQUIRED BY THE VIRGINIA MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, RICHMOND, VIRGINIA.

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This drawing is a design for the ‘Marguerite’ daisy brooch - executed in gold, ivory, enamel, sapphire and topaz - made by the jewelers Henri and Paul Vever in 1900 and today in the collection of the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Half hidden by the woman’s flowing hair, the inscription reads ‘Un peau, beaucoup, passionément, pas du tout’ (‘I love you a little, a lot, passionately, not at all’), which may better be freely translated into English as ‘She loves me, she loves me not.’ The ‘Marguerite’ brooch was one of the most admired of some twenty pieces of jewellery, designed by Grasset and made by Vever, which were shown at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900 to considerable acclaim, winning several prizes.

As the art critic and curator Léonce Rosenberg noted of Maison Vever’s display at the Exposition Universelle, ‘Every work is thoroughly researched and is of particular interest. Each was created with this important exhibition in mind, an exhibition which aspired to make France unrivalled in an art which it deserved to call its own...It is a real joy to contemplate these showcases. Diadems, corsage ornaments, pendants, brooches, combs and buckles captivate you, and entice you back again. One is not only attracted by the splendour, the material allure of this extraordinary gem-set jewelry, by the mineralogical beauty of the white, yellow and blue diamonds; by the rubies, emeralds and sapphires that fuse the glowing and flickering brilliance of their multicoloured fires into a vast and dazzling spectacle. One is also captivated by the charm of an art full of elegance and taste, simplicity and harmony, by an exquisite grace that is truly French and in which imagination and variety are consistently underpinned by strong discipline. M. Vever has also endeavoured to make a truly artistic contribution to gem-set jewelry and has spared no effort, time or sacrifice in order to achieve this distinction.’

In another review of the Exposition Universelle, Charles Saunier wrote that ‘One should also point out the interesting experiment attempted by Mr. Vever with Mr. Grasset. The latter has designed a series of jewels, mainly brooches and pendants, which appear somewhat grim at first sight, but which obviously respond to a private and well thought out conception by that eminent artist. Mr. Vever has translated them using gold and enamel without softening this somewhat brutal aspect. He has done well to do so. Each of these jewels when seen placed on the dark material of clothing looks utterly different from its aspects in a showcase, where it astonishes by the contrast to its surroundings...Will the women of our day appreciate the jewels imagined by Mr. Grasset? It is my opinion that they prefer the ornaments for hair or corsage with which Mr. Vever has truly triumphed in the jewellery section of the Universal Exhibition.’

Of the pieces of jewellery designed by Eugène Grasset for Henri Vever, twelve examples survive today - eleven of which are in museum collections - while the appearance of a further five pieces are known through old photographs or preparatory drawings by Grasset. Four similar drawings by Grasset for jewellery by Vever, including a ‘Naiade’ brooch, a ‘Poesie’ pendant and a brooch or belt buckle with a peacock motif – are in the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York.

Provenance:
Anonymous sale, London, Sotheby’s, 20 March 1987, lot 228
Ralph Esmerian, New York.

Literature:
Évelyne Possémé, ‘Les dessins de bijoux d’Eugène Grasset réalises par la maison Vever’, in Catherine Lepdor, ed., Eugène Grasset 1845-1917: L’art et l’ornement, exhibition catalogue, Lausanne, 2011, p.216, note 10.

Eugène GRASSET

Design for a Brooch

649

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