Objets d'art and other examples
Jewellery of the Art Nouveau period revitalised the jeweller's art, with nature as the principal source of inspiration, complemented by new levels of virtuosity in enamelling and the introduction of new materials, such as opals and semi-precious stones. The widespread interest in Japanese art and the more specialised enthusiasm for Japanese metalworking skills fostered new themes and approaches to ornament.
For the previous two centuries, the emphasis in fine jewellery had been on gemstones, particularly on the diamond, and the jeweller or goldsmith had been principally concerned with providing settings for their advantage. With Art Nouveau, a different type of jewellery emerged, motivated by the artist-designer rather than the jeweller as setter of precious stones.
The jewellers of Paris and Brussels defined Art Nouveau in jewellery, and in these cities it achieved the most renown. Contemporary French critics were united in acknowledging that jewellery was undergoing a radical transformation, and that the French designer-jeweller-glassmaker René Lalique was at its heart. Lalique glorified nature in jewellery, extending the repertoire to include new aspects of nature—such as dragonflies or grasses—inspired by his encounter with Japanese art.
The jewellers were keen to establish the new style in a noble tradition, and for this they looked back to the Renaissance, with its works of sculpted and enamelled gold, and its acceptance of jewellers as artists rather than craftsmen. In most of the enamelled work of the period, precious stones receded. Diamonds were usually given subsidiary roles, used alongside less familiar materials such as moulded glass, horn and ivory.
The Peacock Skirt, by Aubrey Beardsley, (1892).
Aperitif Mugnier, Jules Cheret 1894 poster for the French aperitif
Ivan Bilibin's illustration to The Tale of the Golden Cockerel.
Poster of Maude Adams as Joan of Arc, by Alphonse Mucha, 1909