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Van Cleef & Arpels, reflets d’éternité

Marc Petit

It somehow looks like a commission … but we nevertheless leaf through it with pleasure, dazzled by the sparkling jewels. While its flag-shop located at N°22, place Vendôme is being refurbished (following those of Boucheron and Chaumet that have just stripped off the scaffoldings), the Van Cleef & Arpels house exhibits its first century of creation. The documents from their archives tell a love story between the jeweller and the celebrities, whether royalty – king Farouk, Soraya or the maharani of Baroda – or actresses – Marlène Dietrich, Grace Kelly, Claudia Cardinale. The major dates are quickly set, even if the book skirts around the difficult moments, such as the death, in 1942, of Renée Puissant, the daughter of the founders and a brilliant artistic director: the first steps, the marriage between Estelle Arpels and René Van Cleef, the success at the International Exposition of decorative arts in 1925 (the Châtelaine watch in 1926 perfectly symbolises the Art deco aesthetic), the technical innovations such as the "mysterious setting", with such an appropriate name. And we can admire some famous or unexpected pieces such as king Farouk’s pink Brooch(614 rubis and 241 emeralds) or the strange wrist watch in white enamel, wood and plaited cord from 1932. Practically Arte povera for a time of crisis!

• Van Cleef & Arpels, reflets d’éternité, by Marc Petit, editions Cercle d’art, ISBN : 2-7022-0763-4, 192 p., 100 €

Van Cleef & Arpels, reflets d’éternité - Marc Petit

Review published in the newsletter #14 - from 14 September 2006 to 20 September 2006

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