An Invitation to Dream and Escape
In 1910 – four years after the founding of Van Cleef & Arpels – André Suarès published an account of his Italian journey. Le Voyage du Condottière is a ramble through the cultural centers of the “Boot” (Venice, Florence, and Naples), and an exploration of the Renaissance masters (Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, etc.). For the French writer and poet, “like everything else that matters in life, a great voyage is a work of art: a creation”. Following in the footsteps of both that author and all the travelers who made their own “Grand Tour”, the Maison has reinterpreted this journey of initiation that left its mark on the artistic and cultural landscape of Europe. Born in England in the 16th century, the Grand Tour – so named in reference to a circular journey returning to its starting point – became popular during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Young aristocrats undertook this expedition across the continent (lasting two to three years) to finish off an over-academic education, forge their character, broaden their minds, and ensure their entry into society. Highly recommended, the experience included two compulsory passages: a visit to Paris and stays in the main cities of Italy. While northern France, Switzerland, the Alpine passes and the provinces of Germany were all popular stages, the exact itinerary was variable. It was above all a personal odyssey, structured by political events, wars, artistic movements and fashions, as well as private factors (various departure points, social status, financial resources, personal preference). A true ideal of intellectual, cultural and social education, the Grand Tour promised practical studies in art and literature. The experience was punctuated by the exploration of the emblematic sights of the visited countries, whether relics of a glorious past or modern reflections on their contemporary importance. Although its cost originally made it the preserve of the elite, it attracted a broader public over the years, with both artists and intellectuals.
In the 19th century, this passion for travel endured, but the development of means of transport and communication altered its expression. The fashion of the Grand Tour gradually gave way to “tourism” and its associated leisure activities, including to more and more distant destinations.
Today, it is the cultural heritage of its birthplace, Europe, that the Maison is reinterpreting, with the Le Grand Tour raconté par Van Cleef & Arpels High Jewelry collection. Sculptural necklaces and girandole earrings evoke Renaissance jewels; wide bracelets faithfully reproduce views of well-known sites, in the style of antique micro-mosaics; astonishing clips are composed of vintage cameos and intaglios. The 70 pieces approximately are an invitation to discover the Maison’s creativity, the excellence of its savoir-faire and its unique taste in gems. But they are also an opportunity for Van Cleef & Arpels to reassert its attachment to the arts, and to demonstrate that a great voyage is indeed a work of art in itself.
This High Jewelry collection celebrates a tradition that has always fascinated us. At the beginning of the 20th century, when Van Cleef & Arpels was founded, curiosity for other cultures, periods and forms of art was a way to fuel one’s imagination and give rise to innovative creations. But even before that, traveling abroad to discover the vestiges of ancient civilizations served as a mind-opening practice for intellectuals and artists in Europe. It has had a strong impact on our uses of today. We still travel to widen our perspectives, in a quest for experiences and encounters. The collection is multi-dimensional. It blends the traditions of jewelry and decorative arts – such objects were brought back as souvenirs from the Grand Tour – with the idea of once again discovering and mixing periods and cultures. For that, we followed the trail of our predecessors and chose cities that were renown stops historically. We took inspiration from antique jewelry – Roman, Etruscan, Medieval or Renaissance –, marrying it with our own heritage, style and craft anship. The result is like a colorful sketchbook that invites to dive into destinations and gemstones.
Nicolas Bos, President and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels
To transcribe the beauty of the writings and works encountered in the context of the Grand Tour, Van Cleef & Arpels has deployed the full spectrum of its expertise: the creativity of its design studio, the trained eye of its gemologists, and the savoir-faire and mastery of its High Jewelry workshops. The Maison’s designers and craft have breathed life into pieces conceived like so many travel sketches: an invitation to set forth and admire in wonder.
Throughout the collection, necklaces and bracelets form landscapes rich in contrasts, their motifs ranging from Italian antiquity to the mes- merizing beauty of snow-peaked mountains. Worked three-dimensionally in the round, the clips display sculptural volumes that blur the boundaries between jewelry and the goldsmith’s art. Earrings light up the face in the style of baroque girandoles or Etruscan bauletti, while rings rise up in relief on the hand, captivating the gaze with their graphic contours and sparkling colors. Each creation is designed like a tableau, brimming with patiently executed details. Gold is worked to take on different aspects: hammered to create effects of reflection, in generous gadroons to play with the light, as shimmering pearls, or in architectural lines with alternating polishing techniques.
The pieces create an impression of surprise, with traditional savoir-faire – in homage to the history of jewelry – encountering contem- porary techniques. On the front and back of the creations, the virtuosity of the Maison’s craftsmen is expressed in both the delicacy of the articulations and the intricate finishing touches.
For more information, please visit https://www.vancleefarpels.com/en/home.html.