Lalique Art Nouveau Ring

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Art Nouveau gold, enamel and diamond ring, in the form of Father Christmas.

René Lalique and Paul Briançon, French, ca. 1890.

$22,000

This item is available for purchase in the ALVR shop.

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Art Nouveau Gold and Sapphire Double Cufflinks by Tiffany & Co.

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Art Nouveau gold lozenge-form double cufflinks set with cabochon sapphires and ornamented with gold swirls. In original Tiffany & Co. box.

By Tiffany & Co., ca. 1900
(sapphires approx. 1.5 cts each)

$4,600

This item is available for purchase in the ALVR shop.

Art Nouveau Gold and Sapphire Double Cufflinks by Tiffany & Co.Art Nouveau Gold and Sapphire Double Cufflinks by Tiffany & Co.Art Nouveau Gold and Sapphire Double Cufflinks by Tiffany & Co.

ALVR Blog: A Shakespearean Star (Ruby)

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While we cannot enjoy the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park this year, for your viewing pleasure we are pleased to present a production of our own: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, starring July’s birthstone: ruby!

main view, Gold Midsummer Night's Dream Tiffany Brooch with Star Ruby

This Art Nouveau brooch by Tiffany & Co. takes inspiration from one of Shakespeare’s most famous works. The turn-of-the-twentieth-century movement focused on using new, freer forms of expression in an effort to break away from nineteenth-century historicism. Stylistic characteristics included nature, fantasy, curving lines, and female figures. A sinuous form surrounded by winged insects, a dragonfly and moth, and the brooch’s fantasy theme are quintessentially Art Nouveau. In the United States, Tiffany & Co. was the foremost company producing not only jewelry but also decorative art works in the Art Nouveau style. It is only fitting that an early Tiffany Art Nouveau piece would take inspiration from the fairy realm of a Shakespearean play.

The brooch features a 5.84-carat oval cabochon star ruby – referring to the six-pointed star visible within the stone. The use of such a stone in this design is particularly clever, with the lines of the asterism emphasizing the gold spider web surrounding it. The asterism gives the stone a magical, otherworldly quality, an enchanting phenomenon that inspires The Bard in all of us.

Tiffany Midsummer Night's Dream Brooch, ruby

In gemology history and lore, ruby is considered the king of precious gems, a title coming from the Sanskrit word, “ratnaraj.” The stone’s rarity and hardness (second to diamond) befit this title. Ruby was also valued for its perceived powers, like curing inflammatory diseases, predicting misfortune, soothing anger, and bringing success in love.

As a symbol of passion and power, ruby is an appropriate choice for a jewel inspired by one of literature’s most famous marital quarrels. To recap, Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies, are estranged because Titania refuses to give Oberon her Indian changeling. Oberon retaliates by calling upon the fairy Puck to help him create a potion from a flower called “love in idleness.” When the concoction is applied to a sleeping person’s eyelids, they fall in love with the first living creature they see upon awakening.

“Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew’d thee once:
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.”

Oberon hopes Titania will fall in love with an animal so he can shame her into giving up her changeling. The brooch depicts this moment of enchantment, when Oberon applies the potion to Titania’s sleeping eyelids and says:

“What thou seest when thou dost wake,
Do it for thy true-love take,
Love and languish for his sake:
Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,
Pard, or boar with bristled hair,
In thy eye that shall appear
When thou wakest, it is thy dear:
Wake when some vile thing is near.”

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ALVR Blog: A Toast to Russian Art

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Once simply traditional Russian drinking vessles, the kovsh and charka assumed an increasingly ceremonial status over the centuries, evolving into works of art. Check out our video or continue reading below:

The kovsh form has existed in Russia for centuries, originating as a type of drinking vessel in the shape of a duck. They were made of wood, and some were also made out of tightly woven cloth. In the 16th century, they evolved into presentation objects and began to be fashioned in silver. By the 17th century, kovshi (plural for kovsh) designs became more elaborate, rendered in both gold and silver.

Two examples of kovshi in our collection were made by the Russian Court Jeweler Carl Faberge (1846-1920). While famous for his Imperial Easter Eggs, he designed a wide range of decorative objects, often transforming traditional Slavic forms into his own beautiful precious jeweled vernacular. This yellow kovsh features rich guilloché enamel, a technique typical of Fabergé’s work, and for which he was renowned, and in this special case over 18k gold. The 5-ruble coin of Empress Elizabeth (r. 1741-1762) set in the base is a modification of an old Slavic tradition of insetting metal objects with coins. Traditional in form with a European touch, it’s an exquisite example of Eastern and Western aesthetics converging into a beautiful design. It was made in St. Petersburg, Russia’s window to the West, where art and architecture followed a European model. Moreover, we’re particularly fortunate to have Fabergé’s watercolor sketch. 

Our other Fabergé kovsh, of particularly impressive stature, was by contrast made in Moscow, and its polychrome enameled design reflects those origins, a hallmark of the eastern, Muscovite style. This circa 1910 example is Fabergé’s take on Slavic Revival, a stylistic movement that emerged in the nineteenth century when Russian artists turned to the medieval past for design inspiration. Also referred to as Pan Slavic, this style was a specialty of Fabergé’s Moscow branch.  Featuring contrasting fluid, bold art nouveau forms on the handle and upper portion of the cup, with purely geometric designs in a pastel palette on the base, this kovsh is also distinguished by the inscription on the handle, translating to “To the good memory of Russian friends,” for its 1914 presentation. 

side view, Antique Russian Gold, Red Lacquer, and Emerald CharkaThe charka, or charki (plural), is a small cup used for drinking strong drinks, predominantly vodka. They were traditionally made of silver, and their designs varied widely.  Like kovshi, in time they evolved into decorative objects, some inscribed as presentation gifts, others with drinking maxims. This example is by Alexander Treiden, head workmaster for the Russian court jeweler Carl Hahn (1836–1899), Fabergé’s highly regarded contemporary. Simply designed in red enamel and gold, the handle is set with an emerald.

No longer simply drinking vessels, over time the kovsh and charka became objects as worthy of display as any other work of art. And to that, we raise a toast!

ALVR Blog: The Legend of Sadko

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Once upon a time, in late nineteenth century Russia, there was renewed interest in Russia’s past, and with that, a fascination with Russian fairy tales. This fascination transcended all art forms, from literature and theater to decorative arts. A ceramic charger in A La Vieille Russie’s collection brings this fairytale dream world to life. Executed in the Art Nouveau style, it features scenes from the eleventh- century Novgorod legend of Sadko.*

main view of ceramic charger depicting scenes from the legend of sadko

The oval central section depicts a grotesque octopus-like creature, the rim with Sadko on the right, playing a stringed instrument to three women (left) in diaphanous gowns and jeweled headpieces, on a moonlit shore, with bands of stylized motifs. Designed by Mikhail Vrubel and made by the Kuznetsov Porcelain Factory for the Imperial court.
Russian, 1889-1900.
Width: 28-1/2 inches; height: 24-1/2 inches

As the legend goes, one day a lonely and melancholic Sadko serenades the River Volkhov, proclaiming, “Rich man, poor man—it’s all the same to you. If only you were a woman! I’d marry you and live with you here in the city I love.” His music reaches the bottom of the river, so charming the King of the Sea that he rises to the river’s surface to invite Sadko to play at his palace feast.  As a reward, the King gives Sadko a fish with golden scales.

“Your Majesty, you are too generous!”

“Say no more about it! said the King. “Music is worth far more than gold. If the world were fair, you’d have your fill of riches!”

Sadko quickly sells the golden fish before commencing his journey to the palace deep beneath the ocean waves. Once there, Sadko’s music pleases the King of the Sea so much that he offers one of his daughters in marriage. Sadko chooses a bride, but is warned by the Queen that the slightest embrace will trap him beneath the sea forever, never to return to his beloved Novgorod. With this in mind, Sadko resists the Princess’s charms and awakens to find himself back in Novgorod.

Was it all a dream? Who knows? Sadko lived a good life in Novgorod – he became a wealthy merchant, married, and raised a family. While life was good, he never really forgot what lay beneath the River Volkhov.

“Sometimes still on a quiet evening he would walk out of the city alone, sit on the bank, and send his tinkling music over the water. And sometimes too a lovely head would rise from the river to listen—or perhaps it was only moonlight on the Volkhov.”

Legend has it that the Princess of the Sea can be seen at A La Vieille Russie, where the unusual is usual.TM See her for yourself, for more than an ephemeral glance, at 745 Fifth Avenue.

The end.

*excerpts from Aaron Shepard, The Sea King’s Daughter: A Russian Legend. New York: Atheneum, 1997. http://www.aaronshep.com/stories/032.html (accessed 7/21/20)

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