poniedziałek, 30 czerwca 2014


Giovanni Onorato, Fuschia earrings © Muri's Gallery
Jewellery has always been one of very important elements of culture. From the very beginning besides being just a decoration, it had a significant, often symbolical or religious meaning. With time it also became a real work of art which combined precious stones with artistic design and this role determined modern way of its reception.

Giovanni Onorato (born 1938) was
a well-known Italian jeweller, who is now a bit forgotten. Having premises in famous via della Spiga (Milan), he lived for designing extraordinary pieces of jewellery. Taking much from his background – his family specialized in coral’s trading – through his own company trading with pearls – to designing in 1970s and 1980s many pieces of recognisable, elegant and fancy jewellery. His past works are very collectible and they can be found only in specialised jewellery shops like at Fred Leighton in New York or Muri’s Gallery in Lugano (Switzerland). Through his artistic life he tries to realise one dream – to create the absolute work of art. Because of the mastery of his realisations, always perfectly crafted, with an artistic touch and visionary, combining semi-precious materials with gold and diamonds – always of the best quality – his works are often called Oggetti per passione. And that is exactly what they are.

The Fuschia Earrings were made in 1977 in Milan. Designed by Onorato and executed by Milanese goldsmith Romolo Grassi – one of the greatest creators of his times, who carried out designer’s projects, turning them into precious stones, metal and enamel. Some of his most significant works are nowadays conserved in the Headley-Whitney Museum in Lexington, Kentucky.

Giovanni Onorato, Fuschia earrings (back) © Muri's Gallery 
The Fuschia Earrings are made of yellow gold, translucent fired enamel, diamonds and turmalines (measurements: 5,5 x 14,7 x 3,6 cm, total weight: 77,5 g). Fuschia flowers exemplify naturalism in realistic and spatially waved leaves and petals and as well in different textures of all used materials that imitate the texture of different parts of flower, even in delicate translucence of green enamel transferring the natural effect of day-light on leaves. The highest mastery is in the uninterrupted linearity of the stems, subtle forms of the flower leaves finished with a fine work of chisel. The fine metalwork is filled with translucent enamel of natural colours. All these elements bring naturalism to these two pieces of art.


In general, two ways of artistic expression – naturalism and styled “ornamentalisation” – were always two antagonistic styles in history of art and history of jewellery design. In modern jewellery floral motifs have been always present – in different times it took different styled form. Sometimes nature forms were a subject of the work, sometimes they took only a role of the styled object – transformed, decorative and set with precious materials which were of more importance than the model from nature.

In Napoleon times it took a stylised costume, reduced to role of precious stones. The second half of 19th century brought poetical naturalism into designs which finalised with nature stylised curved lines of Art-Nouveau. Art-déco looked for new ways of artistic expression translated into geometric forms, which were influenced by Indian art (the main role played Cartiers’ and their geometrical tutti-frutti and gardinetto (not so well known styles – just to mention and not focus on these styles in the article). To finish with 1960s designs – full of power and strength in design creating a new quality in jewellery.

Empress Josephine tiara's
(foto from: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/183169909817976264/)
From the very beginning of the 19th century, flowers were very often used as elements of tiaras. In neoclassicistical tiaras, splendid, decorative forms concentrate the spectator’s attention on the use of precious materials, mostly set with gemstones. The floral tiara (in this form made between 1818 and 1830) is cited to be a gift from Napoleon Bonaparte to Empress Josephine – but actually but it’s impossible because the late date of the creation. The piece was a part of Lauchtenburg collection where it stayed till 1953. In 2006 it was sold at an art auction. It consists of 3 brooches made in silver backed of gold, diamonds and emeralds, where all the effect is based on the light of the stones and the simplified almost symmetrical plane line of flat flowers. The nature is reduced to a sign easily readable but mostly not naturalistic in the style.

Necklace with natural pearls  © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The tendencies changed in the second half of the century. The romantic vision of jewels turned to naturalistic forms. An extraordinary piece of jewellery was presented at ‘Pearls’ exhibition in Victoria & Albert’s Museum in December 2013. A necklace with natural pearls set in gold, made probably in England (ca. 1850), is an example of flamboyant but naturalistic style in repeating forms of nature-grapes, leaves and branches.

The beginning of the 20th century started with blooming of many separated, artistic manners and individualities. Famous jewellery designers were also great painters or sculptors, who dreamt about creating a perfect and complete works of art. Two main tendencies occurred and rose simultaneously – decorative – reducing forms from nature to only a sign, looking for new ways of expression – and in contrast to that – naturalistic which continued the artistic focus on realistic trends.

The Art-Nouveau changed the way of poetically interpreting elements from nature. This decorative, curvilinear style takes as much from nature as possible but then transforms it into stylised, flat ornament where the flower is merely a pretext to show the mastery of designer and jeweller. The Anémones sur bois by René Lalique (1860-1945), pendant created ca. 1900 is a great example of this tendency. The technique is very similar to this used later by Onorato – gold, diamonds and green enamel. Lalique pioneered the technique of enamel ‘plique-à-jour’
René Lalique, Anémones des bois © BRAFA 2010
(with other French jewellers of that time: Gaillard, Fouquet). Here gold is used as a wall (cloison) in which the metal oxide components of the enamel are fused. Since the cloison is backless, the vitreous enamel assumes the aspect of stained glass. The brooch composition is now different from those crafted in the 19th century – spatial, delicate and light flowers surrounded by twisted leaves, realistically crafted in details and plant anatomy, reproducing the proper colour, shape and leaf veins. The diamonds are only an element to show the main theme of this piece of art – vivid and beautiful nature, magnified with precious and non-precious materials. The hair comb from the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris or
Musée Calouste Gulbenkian pushed this tendency even further. Flowing, elegant line gives a base to a set of flowers, sometimes naturalistically treated or in other case styled in a decorative manner.

Alphonse Mucha, The Fuschia necklace, Petit Palais
(photo from: www.polyvore.com)

The great interpretation of nature and example of Art-Nouveau style are works by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) and jeweller George Fouquet (1862-1957). Together they carried out many amazing and recognisable pieces of easily recognisable jewellery. The Fuschia necklace (gold, opals, sapphires, pearls) could be a good example of this tendency. It was made in Paris in 1905. The flower shape is still recognisable but yet dominated by the pure and elegant lines of necklace. Fouquet himself experimented with combining different materials. The result of these studies is a pendant from the Rijksmuseum (ca. 1908-1910) made of gold, pearls and enamel, having much in common with Onorato’s earrings.

Peter Carl Fabergé © 2012, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II RCIN 4050 
A master of naturalistic works of art and jewellery was without a doubt Russian jeweller Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920). His amazingly crafted flowers, for example Bleeding Hearts (ca. 1900) from the Royal Collection (Buckingham Palace, London) are masterpieces of translating the realistic forms into precious metals, evoking the nature by translucent enamel and form of the composition itself. The same technique and artistic poetry is easily noticeable in the beautiful pendant Morning Glory (ca. 1900) by American jeweller company Marcus & Co. The naturalism in creation of each part of the plant, the delicate and translucent blossoms, elegant and vivid curves of branches, plant’s leaves – each completely and successfully transferred to the metal. This flower became a jewel itself.

David Webb, Frog bracelet © Muri's Gallery
In 1960s the evolution of artistic style and technical skill became an artistic challenge to jewellers. American designer David Webb (1925-1975) brought the enamel technique to new performances. He took inspirations mostly from nature. He turned it into costume of stylization and created unforgettable animal or floral necklaces, bracelets and rings. For instance, he studied Indian jewellery for many years to get the secret of green colour that is almost the same as of emeralds. His works are masterpieces of perfectly bright, shiny and coloured surfaces combined with precious stones and gold itself. He took many of his inspirations in design from Greeks, Egyptians and Chinese and translated it into modern theme with actualised forms and colours. In this way, he might be considered as a follower of  Madame Toussaint who designed for Cartier many bangles inspired by ancient world. Webb also studied the art of wax casting from antique and Renaissance period realising pieces of very lively forms. 


With all his masterpieces Giovanni Onorato can be without a doubt called one of the most important jewellery designers of his age. From a very beginning he took much either from the jewellery heritage of many centuries and from his private background to develop delicate and subtle style, which combines seemingly separated ornamental and naturalistic forms into one brand new style.
Each of his works was crafted with passion, and, as the Fuschia earrings, was created only in one piece – always with best quality of all  – artistic and technical – elements. These multidimensional, idealised objects are actually total works of art – precious materials are elements to make a naturalistic effect: bright stones of vivid colours, enamel done with a great mastery and the waving shapes of leaves. Moreover, even if they are designed in naturalistic style, still they stay decorative, the same way Fouquet’s works do. The artist took much from historical styles – his works were influenced by paintings by Sandro Botticelli (Primavera), posters and jewellery designes by Alphonse Mucha (Princess Hyacinth) – in waving lines of the branches, delicate shapes of flowers, but also there is much from the jewellery of great masters such as: Lalique, Fouquet (similar technique, using translucid enamel), Peter Carl Fabergé (realism of the composition), David Webb (strenght of subject typical for 1960). But yet those two artists – Onorato and Grassi – developed their own language of jewellery expression, naturalistic and decorative in the same time, language of historical heritage, improved technique skills and individual vision of great artists – all these elements combined to create objects of real passion.

wtorek, 3 czerwca 2014

Z serdecznym, artystycznym powitaniem!

Sztuka nasza jest (…) czymś nikomu, zupełnie nikomu niepotrzebnym. Artysta maluje „w powietrze”, nie ma do kogo przemawiać swymi dziełami: współczesnej sztuki i życia nic nie łączy. Brak idei łączącej życie i twórczość plastyczną jest głównym tej sztuki nieszczęściem. Taką opinię na temat postrzegania sztuki przez społeczeństwo polskie wygłosił w latach dwudziestych poprzedniego wieku szanowany historyk sztuki Mieczysław Sterling. W okresie gdy odradzała się niepodległa Polska, gdy pojawiło się wielu wybitnych twórców o wielkiej kreatywności, zainteresowanie sztuką było bardzo niewielkie. Pisano o niej, powstawały kolejne grupy artystyczne, ale dla zwykłego człowieka były to sprawy odległe.

Czy współcześnie obraz sztuki zepchniętej na margines bardzo się od tego stanu różni? W ostatnich latach ponownie obserwujemy obniżenie zainteresowania sztuką. Przyczyny są różnorodne. Wszechobecny kryzys ekonomiczny wpłynął na postrzeganie wytworów artystycznych jako dóbr zbytkowych, z których rezygnuje się w pierwszej kolejności. Dodatkowo winna jest konkurencyjność innych ofert konsumpcyjnych, z których ludzie korzystają znacznie chętniej. Sztukę spycha się na margines świadomości ogółu, traktując po macoszemu już na etapie wczesnej edukacji, której braki pogłębiają się w toku kolejnych lat szkolnych, a później akademickich. Wciąż pokutuje grupowe przeświadczenie, że „sztuka” to mityczne „coś” – niedostępne zwykłym śmiertelnikom, niezrozumiałe i przeznaczone wyłącznie dla elit. Potęguje to dodatkowo wszechobecna w mass mediach wulgarna pop-kultura, nastawiona najczęściej na promowanie rzeczy kontrowersyjnych, a nie wartościowych. Liczy się skandal a nie treść. Kultura staje się z wolna przestrzenią martwego obrazu bez treści.

Niniejszy blog, związany z Galerią Variétés, ma na celu stworzenie ogólno dostępnej przestrzeni dla odbudowania społecznej roli dzieła, miejscem dialogu między artystami, historykami i miłośnikami sztuki oraz kolekcjonerami, gdzie w centrum będą się znajdować dzieła budzące zainteresowanie i pełne treści. Dążymy do ukazania możliwości interpretacyjnych oraz różnorodnych ścieżek „czytania obiektów”, umożliwiając nieustanne pogłębianie własnej wiedzy. Pragniemy przełamać stereotypy elitaryzmu sztuki, pokazując, że wyjątkowość tkwi w obcowaniu jednostki z obiektem, wzbogacaniu siebie samego, a nie w stawianiu dzieła na niedostępnym piedestale, do którego dostęp mają wyłącznie wybrani.

Serdecznie zapraszamy do twórczej dyskusji i uczestnictwa w projekcie! Sztuka nie musi być wyizolowana, a gdy trafi na otwartych ludzi, którzy podejmą wysiłek i próbę zrozumienia jej, potrafi być ciekawa!