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Alphonse Mucha, jewelry designer for Georges Fouquet

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In 1890-s, the name of Alphonse Mucha was on everyone’s lips in Paris. The city was plastered with his theatrical posters depicting Sarah Bernhardt and advertising posters with languid beauties. Their charms enchanted the young Paris jeweler Gorges Fouguet. He proposed Alphonse to become his jewelry designer. It was a bright idea — oh, just look at them!
As we know, the artist accepted the offer of the jeweler. Alphonse Mucha not only created the unique pieces of jewellery, but also designed interiors and building exterior of the Fouquet’s new jewelry boutique, which became his calling card.
After seeing Mucha’s sketches, Georges Fouquet appraised him to be a born designer. And Georges knew a lot about jewelry! He was the third knee in the famous dynasty of Paris jewelers. In 1895, his father Alphonse Fouquet handed over management of the company to the 34-year-old son. Georges eagerly cought his oppotunity and decided to restyle their jewelry store completely for it had been adhered to Renaissance tastes for too long at that time.
Bianca Capello pendant-cascade, about 1878. Alphonse Mucha, Paul Grandaume, Charlie Bernasher. Gold, diamonds, painted enamel.
Braclet Diana, 1883. Alphonse Mucha, Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, Paul Grandaumе, Honoré-Séverin Bourdoncle. Gold, diamonds, painted enamel.
Brooch Bows, 1819−1838. Gold and pearls. Baroque.
Georges Fouquet was delighted with Art Nouveau, the new style in art. In 1898, he started to create jewelry in a Modernist style and became a major competitor to the famous jeweler Rene Lalique.
At that time, Fouquet Junior invited Alphonse Mucha to collaborate. His gorgeous, captivating maiden, all in flowers and breathtaking jewelry, inspired the Paris jeweler to undertake a new creative search.

Brilliant trio: actress, artist, and jeweler

Collaboration of the artist and the jeweler started after Fouquet had seen Mucha’s poster for Sarah Bernhardt’s 1898 performance of Médée at Théâtre de la Renaissance. The image of the heroine in a dramatic climax astonished Georges, for the combination of her expression, posture, costume and even jewelry underlined the horror of the tragedy.
Sarah Bernhardt acted as Medea — a princess of Colchis, a land of fabulous wealth and sorcery. Medea became a lover and a wife of Janson who had sailed in Colchis, on the eastern end of the Black Sea, in search of the Golden Fleece. When he leaves Medea for a Corinthian princess, Medea poisons her rival and murders her two sons in order to wound her unfaithful spouse to the utmost.

Serpent-like bracelet worn on Medea’s hand attracted attention of Georges Fouquet. This seemingly minor detail, just a jewelry, reinforced the impression of cruelty made by killer mother and underlined the barbarous manners of the country as well.

Sarah Bernhardt wanted to have the same jewelry and ordered George Fouquet to create a bracelet designed by Alphonse Mucha.
Alfons Mucha. Medea
Medea
1898, 206×76 cm
Bracelet Medea is one of the most striking, extravagant and exqisite jewelry created by Alphonse Mucha and Georges Fouquet for Sarah Bernhardt. The actress was wearing it as Medea and Cleopatra. It fitted perfectly for the roles of femme Fatales and made the impression of ominous ancient Oriental amulet.
Golden bracelet Medea was made in 1899 by Fouquet. The snake coiled around the wrist, its tail extending up the arm. Its winged head, set with a mosaic of cloisonee enamel with a scaly surface and expensive exquisite opal facets, rubies, and diamonds, rested on the back of the hand. It was connected to a snake-headed thumb ring by a series of short chains. Two snake-heads turned to face each other, as if they were looking at each other. The bracelet was given extra flexibility by a discrete system of hinges which allowed free movement of the hand.
Golden bracelet Medea with a thumb ring, 1899. Sakai, Japan.
Sarah Bernhardt shone on the stage in extraordinary costumes and ordered bizzare jewelry to match. Alphonse Mucha made six posters for the actress where she looked young and beautiful in her 54 years. Sarah was more than pleased with his graphics and awaited the same results from his jewelry.
Alfons Mucha. Lorenzaccio. Promotional poster for Sarah Bernhardt
Alfons Mucha. The lady of the camellias. Promotional poster for Sarah Bernhardt
  • Poster for 'Lorenzaccio' (1896)
  • Poster for 'La Dame aux Camélias' (1896)
Anton Chekov wrote about Bernhardt, "When she acts, she’s running not for naturalness but for uniqueness. Her goal is to amaze, astonish, dazzle…" She dazzled with her jewelry as well — with luxurious necklaces, wide bracelets, massive earrings and tiaras.

Sarah Bernhardt acted as Mélissinde in Edmon Rostand’s play La Princesse Lointaine at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, in 1895. For her image, Alphonse Mucha created amazing jewelry: tiara with lilies and a pendant.






Tiara La Princesse Lointaine, 1890s, the French National Library (Bibliotheque Nationale de France), Musée de l’Opéra.

  • Sarah Bernhardt as Mélissinde in Edmon Rostand's play La Princesse Lointaine at the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, in 1895.
  • Аlphonse Mucha, Sarah Bernhardt, 1986. This poster Mucha created for the banquet arranged for Sarah Bernhardt by her friends in Paris in 1896. The actress is depicted in a tiara of the living lilies.
Pendant La Princesse Lointaine designed by Alphonse Mucha, 1900. Bronze, gold plated. Mucha Foundation, Prague.
Pectoral jewel made for Sarah Bernhardt designed by Alphonse Mucha and made by Georges Fouquet, about 1900. Enamel, ivory, turquoise.

To tell the truth, during the years of their collaboration, there were dozens of rumors saying that not only business but also romantic relationship between the artist and the actresses tied them so closely. This assumption, incidentally, can be proved by the correspondence between the artist and Bernhardt"















Photo: Alphonse Mucha at his studio, sitting on the background of a poster made for Sarah Bernhardt.

Decorated necklace with pendants, 1900. Jeweler Georges Fouquet, designed by Alphonse Mucha.
Exhibited at 1900 Paris Exposition Universelleon by Fouquet jewelry house.
Ring Peacock. 1900. Jeweler Georges Fouquet, designed by Alphonse Mucha.
Exhibited on 1900 Paris Exposition Universelleon by Fouquet jewelry house.

By the way, Mucha designed both jewelry and sculpture for the exhibition. Mucha showed his sculptural work Nature in Bosnia and Herzegovina Paviliion. Zodiak series introduced graphics of the artist. Mysterious and sensual maiden attracted and mesmerized the viewers while the researchers continued to unravel the mystery: whose face inspired the artist and whom did he portrayed?

















Alphonse Mucha, Nature, 1899−1900. Bronze, gold plated, malachite. Fin-de-Siècle, Brussels.

Alfons Mucha. Zodiac
Zodiac
1896, 65.7×48.2 cm
Considering Mucha’s interest in photography, art historians studied the archival photos from many European museums and arrived at the idea that his Muse was either Sarah Bernhardt, or a famous Parisian dancer Cléo de Mérode.

Happy union of the two masters of Art Nouveau

Mucha had been working for Fouquet for three years, from 1899 to 1901. Still, during that time he made a serious impact on the image of the jeweler’s work. Derived from the Louis XVI period, emphasis had been made on precious stones in traditional settings. Fouquet and Mucha together redefined fine jewelry design. They believed that the beauty of a jewel depends on its artistic conception but not on the value of the precious stones. Two innovators chose materials for their contribution to the overall design, not for their intrinsic value.
Brooch. Jeweller Georges Fouquet, designer Alphonse Mucha, 1899−1900-s.
Pendant Waterfall. Jeweler Georges Fouquet, designed by Alphonse Mucha. Сa. 1900. Cloisonné enamel, pearl, opal, diamonds.
Fouquet produced a number of skillful jewelry designed by Mucha. He usually used gold, enamel, ivory, pearls, opals, and small diamonds.
  • Sketch
    A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
    So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
    for jewelry by Alphonse Mucha. Са. 1900
  • Sketch
    A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
    So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
    for jewelry by Alphonse Mucha. Ca. 1900
  • Hair comb Butterfly, 1899. Tortoise shell, inlaid opals in gold, amethysts, diamonds, 15 х 9 sm. Petit Palais, Paris.
  • Lotus flower hairpin, 1905-1906. Ivory, enamel, gold, diamonds. Petit Palais, Paris.
Winged dragon pendant, 1902. Jeweler Georges Fouquet, designed by Alphonse Mucha. Gold, enamel, diamonds, pearls.
Private collection, New York.
  • Hair jewelry. Jeweler Georges Fouquet, designed by Alphonse Mucha. Turquoise, pearls, stones. 1890-1900-s.
  • Brooch. Jeweler Georges Fouquet, designed by Alphonse Mucha. Enamel, pearls.
Alfons Mucha. Ruby. From the series "Precious stones"
Alfons Mucha
1899, 67.2×30 cm
Alfons Mucha. Emerald. From the series "Precious stones"
Alfons Mucha
1899, 67.2×30 cm
Alfons Mucha. Amethyst. A series of gems
Alfons Mucha
1900, 67.2×30 cm
Alfons Mucha. Topaz. A series of gems
Alfons Mucha
1900, 67.2×30 cm
Mucha combined fantastic and natural motifs. He was not afraid to transcend current conventions concerning jewelry attire. He designed pendants, brooches, and elaborate corsage ornaments, many with his favoured series of mystical crescents and circles and alluring images of young charming ladies.
Pendant, ca. 1900. Jeweler Georges Fouquet, designed by Alphonse Mucha. Gold, enamel, mother-of-pearl, opal, emerald, colored stones, gold paint. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Brooch. Jeweler Georges Fouquet, designed by Alphonse Mucha. Gold, enamel, semi-precious stones.
Pendant Waterfall. Jeweler Georges Fouquet, designed by Alphonse Mucha. Сa. 1900.
Cloisonné enamel, pearl, opal, diamonds. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Here is the story as adorable as the theme of our research. Alphonse Mucha made his bride a wedding present, the necklace. It was designed by Mucha and made by Paris jeweller Jan Rechner in 1906. The golden necklace was decorated with pendants-amulets made of semi-precious stones, grapes of hooves and three doves, a symbol of love and marriage.

Jewelry boutique as a work of art

In 1899, Georges Fouquet commissioned Mucha to completely redesign his chic 6 rue Royale jewelry shop. It opened in 1901 to the utmost delight of the audience. The artist has done his job perfectly. He created a brilliant design in a sheer Art Nouveau sumptuousness, full of flexible fluid lines and abundant in natural motifs.
The facade of the shop was decorated with a bronze central panel depicting, in relief, a half-naked maiden enveloped by tresses of hair and drapery that flew in S-shaped curves. Above it, on both sides, there was a frieze of ten stained glass panels, depicting ten fashionable female beauties. Still the artist’s favourite objects were girls!
As befits a jewelry boutique, the luxurious interior makes the buyer to lose one`s head!
The Mucha designed interiors for Fouquet’s jewelry shop at the Musée Carnavalet, Paris.

Mucha gave free rein to his imagination and created the interior abounding in wildlife — tendril mouldings on the ceiling, columns and friezes decorated with flowers, leaves and buds; panel paintings on the marine theme: shells, fishes, nymphs. In the hall, the artist put a swirling crescent-shaped fireplace, fountain with a nude nymph, exquisite mahogany furniture, floral stained glass in Japanese style, Byzantine-like mosaics, bronze sculptures and original showcase for boutique’s products.

"I always study
A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
nature. There is not a single plant, a flower, which would not have been full of suggestions and incarnations."
Alphonse Mucha.
  • Alphonse Mucha. Sketch
    A study is an exercise painting that helps the painter better understand the object he or she paints. It is simple and clear, like sample letters in a school student’s copybook. Rough and ready, not detailed, with every stroke being to the point, a study is a proven method of touching the world and making a catalogue of it. However, in art history, the status of the study is vague and open to interpretation. Despite its auxiliary role, a study is sometimes viewed as something far more significant than the finished piece. Then, within an impressive frame, it is placed on a museum wall.
    So, when does a study remain a mere drill, and when can we call it an artwork in its own right, full of life and having artistic value? Read more
    for a fireplace in interiors for Fouquet’s jewelry shop, 1899. Watercolor, pencil.
  • The Mucha designed interiors for Fouquet’s jewelry shop, 1899.
In 1923, Art Nouveau went out of fashion, and Fouquet decided to refurbish his shop. All decorative fittings were dismantled. In 1941, Fouquet donated his rue Royale shop in its entirety to the Musée Carnavalet in Paris. In 1989, in one of the museum’s halls, the luxurious interior of Fouquet’s jewelry shop was reassembled as it was, featuring even the mosaic floor designed by Mucha.
Alphonse Mucha has been conquering all kinds of art, including architectural design, photography, painting, graphics, frescoes, jewelry craftsmanship, getting closer to the title of the universal master.
But whatever this amazing artist worked with, his only aim was to find beauty.
 Comments  1
anastasiya mamaeva
anastasiya mamaeva
, 27 November 2015 05:04 PM 0
Original   Auto-Translated
Very interested, Irina Olich, but let me tell you that the bracelet you wear and not wear! Put the actress on stage, the actress wears a bracelet on the wrist.
This text was originally published in Russian and automatically translated to English.
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