Sculptures for the body of Jean Vendôme

August 18, 2019 by No Comments


He is the maestro of contemporary art jewelry. Jean Vendome (1930-2017) sublimated fine and precious stones in a spirit that was both baroque and abstract, considering the jewel as a portable sculpture – and not as a simple accessory. A retrospective of his work presented at the Ecole des Arts joailliers in Paris makes it possible to (re) discover the most beautiful adornments of this multi-award-winning artist, who deeply marked the jewelry art of the 1960s and 70s, and collaborated with Cocteau, Vasarely, Arman, César or Dalí.

His constant search for the renewal of graphic forms (as evidenced by the Fifth Avenue ring from 1966, inspired by New York skyscrapers, its sculptural Boule ring that can be worn in six different ways or the articulated Ferret ring that climbs on the hand ), his work on the light of stones, his way of playing with contrasts between the precious and the rough give his surrealist compositions, even fifty years later, an unparalleled modernity.

Cathedral ring and Vth Avenue ring. Private collections

It is puzzling to see, while browsing the windows of the exhibition staged by curator Sophie Lefèvre, to what extent Jean Vendôme was a visionary: “It questions and disrupts our visual perceptions, namely how we wear a piece of jewelry. For him, the artistic value of the object was more important than precious stones or gold ” notes Sophie Lefèvre.

Voids and solids, dissymmetry and curves… Inspired at the time by the brutalism of Le Corbusier or Arte Povera, Jean Vendôme created real sculptures for the body. “The 1966 Vth Avenue ring has 42 square threads supporting 42 diamonds all of different sizes set at 42 different heights. It’s a mind-blowing ring ” adds Sophie Lefèvre.

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Le Dormeur necklace, 1991, silver, crab claws, garnets.  Private collection

Le Dormeur necklace, 1991, silver, crab claws, garnets. Private collection

Born in 1930, the man began his apprenticeship at the age of 13. Gifted, he opened his first boutique-workshop at the age of 18. In 1950, he created his first jewelry collection which opened more than sixty years of creative effervescence, with almost 30,000 unique pieces. Here, we discover a hundred of the most emblematic jewels, witnesses of his passion for stones, but also for nature and minerals. We thus discover the incredible Académitien sword of Roger Caillois which frees itself from all codes, but also necklaces, rings, bracelets where like a sculptor, Jean Vendôme uses brilliance, unforeseen dissonances of colors and unexpected materials such as staurotids, moldavites, crab claws or even fossilized dinosaur bone, like these cufflinks that Bernadette offered to Jacques Chirac …

Ferret ring, 1984, yellow gold and tourmalines.  Private collection.

Ferret ring, 1984, yellow gold and tourmalines. Private collection.

Because the signature of this artist is not to stun with precious stones of too great value. The exhibition takes us into a dreamlike world, bursting with agates, rutilated quartz and other fine stones with little-known names and psychedelic colors such as the candy pink of cobaltocalcite or the green of dioptase (Mediterranean necklace, 1992). According to these “wandering colors”, we also find crab pliers delicately holding pearls, lapis lazuli and sapphires, or in the singularity of the Clin d’Oeil necklace, Jean Vendôme inserts, in a baroque gold frame, a trapiche emerald, strange and magnified geological curiosity.

Art, movement, technique, precious stones, minerals and art. A dazzling cocktail which also presents all the ambivalent position of Jean Vendôme: “For artists he was a jeweler, for jewelers he was an artist”.

“Jean Vendome, artist jeweler”, until December 18 at the Ecole des Arts joailliers, Paris-1er. Entrance by reservation only. www.lecolevancleefarpels.com

Jean Vendôme in the 1980s.

Jean Vendôme in the 1980s.



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