Art Deco

Art Deco Series Day 3 – Eastern Influences on Vanity Fair

AD East

The expanding world and the public’s increasing curiosity of cultures far from Europe in the 1920s inspired artists and jewelers alike to incorporate these exotic motifs into their work.  Egyptian, Chinese and Japanese themes and designs could be seen everywhere in jewelry, from brooches and pendants to panel bracelets and vanity cases.

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ONYX, CORAL AND DIAMOND BRACELET, LACLOCHE FRÈRES, ca. 1925.
Platinum.
Rare, exquisite Art Deco bracelet depicting a Chinese garden scene: a pagoda, cherry trees in flower, a traditional boat with a boatman sailing down a river. A bridge with 2 court ladies, one holding a parasol. Decorated with cut onyx and coral and set throughout with numerous old European-cut diamonds, the river is set throughout with rose-cut diamonds. French platinum marks. Signed Lacloche Frères. W ca. 3.3 cm, L ca. 18.6 cm.

  “Europe’s dialogue with the art of the Far East, which began in the early seventeenth century, is one of the most fascinating chapters in the history culture.  It started with a passion for Chinese silk which later extended to porcelain and lacquer, products which were virtually a monopoly of the Dutch and British East India Companies.  The precious cargoes, generally sent by sea, through Dutch Batavia and along the Coromandel coast of India, or from the port of Canton, were marketed in Europe as ‘Indian’, ‘Chinese’ or ‘Japanese’.  By the middle of the eighteenth century, almost every European palace had its ‘Chinese’ lacquer cabinet – even if the majority were manufactured in European workshops – to the delight of all those ‘tired of the elegance and symmetry of the Greeks’.  Essentially, the eighteenth-century interest in Chinese art was a dilettante fascination with the exotic…” (source)

Art Deco Gem-Set and Diamond Pendant Brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, 1924

Art Deco Gem-Set and Diamond Pendant Brooch by Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, 1924 – Siegelson

As for vanity cases, they witnessed their heyday during the Art Deco period, surging in popularity as coin purses of the previous era faded out of fashion.  Seeing these cases as a grand opportunity for jewelers to demonstrate their artistic prowess, they prolifically created elegant cases to hold a lady’s  “vanity” necessities:  powder compact, lipstick, tortoiseshell comb and mirror.  Vanity cases ranged from simple black onyx boxes with the owner’s initials to elaborate Chinese lacquer panels and mother-of-pearl inlays.  Specifically to this post, Chinese motifs began to set the style in haute couture at least as early as 1923, the year of the Paris Opera Chinese Ball.

SUPERB GEM-SET COMPACT, CARTIER, 1920S - Sotheby's

SUPERB GEM-SET COMPACT, CARTIER, 1920S – Sotheby’s
The circular compact with a water dragon motif composed of resin, ivory and mother-of-pearl, framed by black enamel, turquoise, and cabochon rubies, opening to reveal a powder compartment and a mirror, measuring approximately 65mm x 65 mm x 12mm, signed Cartier London, New York, Paris and numbered, French assay mark.

Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Lacloche created some of the most exquisite vanity cases featuring Chinese motifs.   Highly detailed and skilled in the art of Chinese mother-of-pearl lacquer, the scenes depict the exotic scenery and every day life in far east China during the early 20th century.  Made from jade, onyx, coral and other hard stones with precious gem accents, these tiny panels of art in miniature provided the perfect landscape for artistic freedom and challenged jewelers in mastering ancient techniques.

An Art Deco gold, platinum, lacquer, enamel, ruby, coral, Mother of Pearl, moonstone and diamond Vanity Case by Cartier, circa 1927

An Art Deco gold, platinum, lacquer, enamel, ruby, coral, Mother of Pearl, moonstone and diamond Vanity Case by Cartier, circa 1927

Chinese lacquer of the Ming period was built up from as many as two hundred separately dried layers;  French Art Deco lacquer artists contented themselves with about twenty layers.  However, clever shortcuts to retain the quality of the Ming period’s skill in lacquer were often used.  In an effort to preserve this ancient technique and his work’s integrity, Louis Cartier began collecting mother-of-pearl lacquer from the leading antique dealers of the time, extracting them from Chinese bowls, tables or trays.  Another technique of Chinese origin commonly used on vanity cases is known as ‘lacque burgauté’ and involves dying layers of mother-of-pearl into pink, blue, green and purple tones, so as to create vivid contrasts of color in extremely detailed scenes.  While Cartier may have been the preeminent make of these Chinese lacquer vanity cases, other notable jewelers created equally beautiful Chinese-inspired cases using different techniques such as enameling.

Eventually, the vanity case would give way to the handbag, purse and evening clutch, no longer of practical or even ornamental purpose.  Now it serves as a beautiful and ornate objet d’art, a lovely reminder of the high times and opulence of the Roaring Twenties.

 

AN ATTRACTIVE ART DECO MOTHER-OF-PEARL, ENAMEL AND DIAMOND VANITY CASE, BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS - Christie's

AN ATTRACTIVE ART DECO MOTHER-OF-PEARL, ENAMEL AND DIAMOND VANITY CASE, BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
The rectangular blue enamelled case with black enamelled borders, designed as an Oriental mother-of pearl landscape, depicting a temple and trees with engraved gold trim, amongst billowing clouds, enhanced by rose-cut diamond geometric style trim and push-piece, opening to reveal a fitted mirror and covered powder compartment, mounted in 18k gold, circa 1925, 2¾ x 2 x 3/8 ins., with French assay marks and maker’s mark
Signed Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, nos. 29958 and 20.362
With maker’s mark for Van Cleef & Arpels
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

 

AN ART DECO MOTHER-OF-PEARL, ENAMEL AND MULTI-GEM VANITY CASE, BY LINZELER-MARCHAK - Christie's

AN ART DECO MOTHER-OF-PEARL, ENAMEL AND MULTI-GEM VANITY CASE, BY LINZELER-MARCHAK
The rectangular red enamel and 18k gold case, set with an inlaid mother-of-pearl panel depicting a Chinese dragon, enhanced by a cabochon ruby, sapphire and rose-cut diamond trim, with black enamel and carved lapis lazuli terminals, the buff-topped cabochon sapphire pushpiece, opening to reveal a fitted mirror, a covered lipstick holder and two covered compartments, mounted in 18k gold, circa 1925, 4¼ x 1¾ ins., with French assay mark and maker’s mark
Case signed Ste. Linzeler-Marchak, no. 1763; lipstick holder no. 2769; with maker’s mark for Lacloche Frères
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

 

18 Karat Gold, burgauté Lacquer, Enamel, Mother-of-Pearl, Jade and Diamond Vanity Case, Cartier, France - Sotheby's18 KARAT GOLD, LACQUE BURGAUTÉ, ENAMEL, MOTHER-OF-PEARL, JADE AND DIAMOND VANITY CASE, CARTIER, FRANCE - Sotheby's

Photos courtesy of Sotheby’s

18 Karat Gold, burgauté Lacquer, Enamel, Mother-of-Pearl, Jade and Diamond Vanity Case, Cartier, France

The front and reverse set with two rectangular lacque burgauté panels depictingChinoiserie garden scenes illustrating a scholar and his apprentice, decorated with a carved jade tablet and small rose-cut diamonds, bordered by red enamel, the edges heightened in black enamel applied in a geometric motif, the interior fitted with a mirror and two compartments, measuring approximately 3 by 2 by ½ inches, signed Cartier Paris Londres New York, numbered 8453, with French assay and partial workshop marks; circa 1925.

Often made during the nineteenth century in China or Japan, the lacque burgauté plaques seen here were often imported by Cartier from the Far East. To achieve the smooth and glossy finish of the tablets, which were typically set with tinted and engraved mother-of-pearl inlays, multiple layers of lacquer and various polishing techniques were utilized. The geometric enamelwork and carved jade decorations on the present vanity case further exemplify the influence of Eastern motifs on Art Deco designs.

 

DIAMOND, GOLD AND PLATINUM VANITY CASE BY CARTIER, 1928. - Sotheby's DIAMOND, GOLD AND PLATINUM VANITY CASE BY CARTIER, 1928. 2 - Sotheby's

Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

A LAQUE BURGAUTÉ, ENAMEL, DIAMOND, GOLD AND PLATINUM VANITY CASE BY CARTIER, 1928

 

 

AN ART DECO ENAMEL, DIAMOND AND GOLD VANITY CASE, BY LACLOCHE FRERES - Christie's

AN ART DECO ENAMEL, DIAMOND AND GOLD VANITY CASE, BY LACLOCHE FRERES – Photo courtesy of Christie’s

A MOTHER-OF-PEARL, DIAMOND, ENAMEL AND ONYX VANITY CASE, BY BOUCHERON - Christie's

A MOTHER-OF-PEARL, DIAMOND, ENAMEL AND ONYX VANITY CASE, BY BOUCHERON
The green enamel and onyx rectangular case applied with a mother-of-pearl plaque depicting a Chinese landscape with black enamel and diamond detail to the front and reverse, opening to reveal two compartments, a lipstick holder and a fitted mirror, circa 1928, 9.0 x 5.0 x 1.5 cm., with French assay marks (lipstick tube deficient)
Signed by Boucheron, Paris
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Cartier_Chinese Vanity Case 1928

Chinese Vanity Case, Cartier Paris, 1928
Photo courtesy of Cartier

royalstyle52

Vanity Case with Chinese Vase Decoration
1927
Gold, platinum, carved emerald, emerald and sapphire cabochons, onyx, coral, single- and rose-cut diamonds, red, ivory-coloured, black, green and yellow enamel
Photo courtesy of Cartier

18 KARAT GOLD, LACQUER, MOTHER-OF-PEARL, ENAMEL AND GEM-SET CHINOISERIE VANITY CASE, CARTIER, PARIS, CIRCA 1927 - Sotheby's

18 KARAT GOLD, LACQUER, MOTHER-OF-PEARL, ENAMEL AND GEM-SET CHINOISERIE VANITY CASE, CARTIER, PARIS, CIRCA 1927
The rectangular case fitted with two chinoiserie black lacquer panels inlaid with tinted mother-of-pearl, the lid depicting a chance encounter in a garden, the bottom depicting an interior scene with several figures admiring a starry sky, set with rose-cut diamonds and cabochon rubies, interior fitted with a mirror and tortoise shell liner, measuring approximately 3¼ by 2 1/8 by 5/8 inches, signed Cartier, Paris, Londres, New York, numberd 01946, maker’s mark, French assay marks. With signed box.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

A SPLENDID ART DECO 'CHINESE LANDSCAPE' VANITY CASE, BY CARTIER

A SPLENDID ART DECO ‘CHINESE LANDSCAPE’ VANITY CASE, BY CARTIER
Designed with two panels of Chinese mother-of-pearl and laquer night scenes, one depicting three kneeling figures holding a lantern with rose-cut diamond and emerald detail surrounded by trees and rocks, the other depicting a view over a lake, a boat, a tree and a lantern with emerald detail in the foreground and rocks in the background with a rose-cut diamond moon, each to the rose-cut diamond border and fluted coral frames, opening to reveal a mirror, two compartments, a lipstick-holder and a compartment for a comb (comb missing), circa 1925, 9.8 x 6.8 cm, with French assay marks for gold, in red Cartier pouch
Signed Cartier, no. 0336
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Lot Notes

In 1913, Cartier produced their first cigarette cases based on 19th-century Chinese mother-of-pearl mosaics and soon Louis Cartier started collecting mother-of-pearl laquer systematically from the leading antique dealers of the time, which he used in his objets d’art. According to Hans Nadelhoffer, mother-of-pearl was, from ancient times ‘valued for the rose, lavender-blue and shimmering greens of the thin, innermost layers of sea and freshwater mussels. Early mother-of-pearl inlays from the Tang dynasty were too thick to permit the iridescence of the full colour range, but the craftsmen of the later Ming and Ching periods used tissue-thin slivers to produce delicately scintillating effects (…). Mother-of-pearl had a magical authority within the Taoist scheme. Moonbeams and the dust of powdered mother-of-pearl were the food of the immortal He Xiangu, and its insubstantial shimmering colours were, for the Taoists, a token of eternity. Mother-of-pearl was a favourite material in depictions of the Taoist Paradise of the West, which showed the caves of the Eight Immortals, the goddess Djivangmu riding on her phoenix and the Peaches of Immortality which ripened every three thousand years.
The laquers used by Cartier’s in the 1920s were mostly taken from Chinese bowls, trays or tables; the relation to the original decorative context was necessarily sacrificed as a result. Because of their small format the motifs that came to hand were not concerned with the great themes of Taoist mythology. Even so, they conjure up the poetic and allegorical feeling for nature at the heart of Taoism. On one of these Cartier laquers two of the Immortals are strolling beneath the summer moon, deep in conversation; on another a maid light her mistress’s way with a lantern; on another we observe a sage with his disciple in a pine grove. These little panels, which sit well with the art deco ensemble of coral, lapis lazuli and onyx, are often further embellished with cabochon gemstones: rubies may serve to pick out cherry blossoms or trace the line of a bridge, a sapphire lights up a distant boat, the moon shimmers through the facets of a rose-cut diamond.’ (Hans Nadelhoffer, Cartier: Jewelers Extraordinary, p. 201)

 

 

AN ART DECO MULTI-GEM, DIAMOND AND GOLD VANITY CASE, BY LACLOCHE - Christie's

AN ART DECO MULTI-GEM, DIAMOND AND GOLD VANITY CASE, BY LACLOCHE
Onyx intact, minor nicks, pearl, nice luster, jade, nice saturation, white veining, nicks, 1 jade plaque deficient, rock crystal, intact, numerous rose-cut diamonds, nice life and brilliance, a few with chips, mirror intact, 3½ x 1¾ x 1/2 ins., circa 1930, shows signs of normal use Signed Lacloche Freres, 64006, 2288, with French assay mark and maker’s mark
Signed Lacloche Freres, 64006, 2288, with French assay mark and maker’s mark
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

AN ART DECO ENAMEL, DIAMOND AND CHRYSOPRASE VANITY CASE, BY OSTERTAG

AN ART DECO ENAMEL, DIAMOND AND CHRYSOPRASE VANITY CASE, BY OSTERTAG
The rectangular red enamel case, set with a panel depicting Chinese water scenes in green, blue, red, black and white enamels on polished gold, bordered by rose-cut diamonds and gold inlay of geometric design, each black enamel fluted terminal, with rose-cut diamond detail, topped by a cabochon chrsysoprase, sliding to reveal a fitted mirror, lipstick holder and four covered compartments, mounted in 18k gold, circa 1925, 4½ x 1½ x 1 ins., with French assay marks and maker’s mark
Signed Ostertag
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

AN ART DECO ENAMEL AND CORAL VANITY CASE, BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS - Christie's

AN ART DECO ENAMEL AND CORAL VANITY CASE, BY VAN CLEEF & ARPELS
The cylindrical case in black, red and gold enamel depicting a pair of dragons amongst swirling clouds, to the diamond push-piece, with carved floral coral terminals and rose-cut diamond detail, mounted in gold, circa 1925, 10.0 x 3.4 cm, in black Van Cleef & Arpels case
Signed Van Cleef, Arpels, Paris, No. 27703
Photo courtesy of Christie’s

ART DECO ENAMEL, JADE AND LAPIS LAZULI VANITY CASE, LACLOCHE FRÈRES, PARIS, CIRCA 1925 - Sotheby's

ART DECO ENAMEL, JADE AND LAPIS LAZULI VANITY CASE, LACLOCHE FRÈRES, PARIS, CIRCA 1925
The hinged rectangular box applied with black enamel, the borders of the lid outlined in jade and lapis lazuli rectangles and squares separated by bands of rose-cut diamonds, the lid further decorated with a rose-cut diamond symbol, opening to reveal two covered compartments and a fitted mirror, mounted in 18 karat gold, 2½ by 1¾ inches, signed Lacloche Frères, Paris.
Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    China: Through the Jeweled Looking Glass – Art Deco Origins – Jewels du Jour
    July 1, 2015 at 5:56 pm

    […] Using authentic Chinese mother-of-pearl lacquer collected by Louis Cartier from leading antique dealers, Cartier crafted poetic and allegorical panels based on Taoist mythology for their objets d’art. The inlaid panels were comprised of mother-of-pearl lacquer pieces taken from bowls, trays or tables made in China, which differed from the Western inlays (made of tinted mother-of-pearl and different hardstones inlaid into a pale mother-of-pearl ground) used by the Paris-based Russian Vladimir Makovsky. The panels were then paired with Art Deco ensembles of coral, lapis lazuli and onyx and accented by cabochon gemstones. Alternatively, Cartier encased the surfaces of their objets with geometric patterns based on those developed by the artists of the Ch’ing period (1644-1911), such as stylized rhombs, hexagons, scales and circles. (Continue reading here for more on vanity cases of Oriental inspiration) […]

  • Reply
    Susan Kottemann
    July 7, 2015 at 10:40 am

    Natalie,
    Your contribution to the jewelry world is truly priceless, like so many of the pieces you featured in this article.
    You are a treasure as well! Thank you for such thorough research of this fascinating decorative period.

  • Leave a Reply