Alexis Falize - Antoine Tard - Gustave Baugrand
At PAN, the annual art and antiques fair in Amsterdam, Dekker Antiquairs presents are rare sight: three objects by two of the most important Parisian jewellers in Japanese style, with enamelling by Antoine Tard. The pendant and earrings are made by Alexis Falize, the miniature carriage clock by Gustave Baugrand. The objects are rare examples of the aesthetic revolution that happened around the World Expo of 1867 in Paris and paved the way for Art Nouveau.
Since the 1630’s the island of Deshima was a trade-post for the Dutch and Chinese, allowing for Japanese porcelain, lacquer and silk to enter Europe. But it took until the trade deal in 1859 before Europeans could get to know the Japanese aesthetic really well.
Artists were pining for an aesthetical revolution after decades of historicism. So when the linear forms, bright colours and clear love of nature of Japanese art entered the European stage, it was unlike anything anyone had ever seen before.
Because of the restoration of the Meiji Emperors in 1867, the economic situation in Japan changed from feudal to market economy. And since the Japanese government found the artefacts from a private collection that were exhibited in the World Exhibition of 1862 in London unrepresentative, they decided to participate in the Paris Expo Universelle of 1867 themselves.
By the end of this Parisian Expo, Alexis Falize, who worked tirelessly to create and innovate artistic jewellery, had included his jewels in the Japanese style in the exhibition, with the cloisonné enamelling by Antoine Tard. He had discovered his work in the display of Christofle & Cie, who hired him for a whole range of objects enamelled with Egyptian, Indian and Persian motifs. For his contribution to the Expo, Tard was awarded with the gold collaborator’s medal. Other recognition came from the South Kensington Museum, now the Victoria & Albert Museum, who acquired some of Falize’s Japanese jewels, which can be found in other museum collections as well.
There must have been a lot of chemistry between Lucien Falize and Antoine Tard. Falize had an unparalleled talent for design and an insatiable appetite for Japanese art, while Tard’s superior skills in cloisonné enamelling offered the practical platform for their innovation. Cloisonné enamelling was prominent in ancient Greece, Egypt and Byzantium in particular, from where it was adopted by the Chinese during the Ming-dynasty from where it made its way to Japan.
The country’s artistic language was largely derived from the Chinese arts, but Falize and Tard chose for a more playful interpretation of the Japanese visual language, inspired by the volumes of Japanese woodblock prints by Hokusai and Isai, while employing colouring with such a brightness that it was much closer to Chinese art. Their technical innovation was the use of gold instead of copper for the cloisons. This way the gold wires became part of the design instead of merely being the demarcation between different colours.
High production cost
According to Lucien Falize, Alexis’ son, Antoine Tard was ‘a skilled craftsman, endowed with perseverance and determination’, traits necessary for the painstaking process of cloisonné enamelling. Gold wires form the cells of the design and pliers were used to bend the gold strips. Then enamel powder was put in and many firings were needed to get the colour intensity that was desired. Then it was polished. Despite the high production cost, the jewels in Japanese style were popular, partly because they suited the then current fashion for bright colours.
Only a few known
In 1868 Christofle and Alexis Falize agreed to ‘split’ Antoine Tard’s talent. He would make enamels for jewels and other items related to clothing for Falize, who started selling these under his own name in 1869, and other objects for Christofle. But Tard was a freelancer, and a very limited production of objects in the Japanese style made for another great name of 19th century French jewellers is known as well. Gustave Baugrand was jury member for the jewellery department of the 1867 Expo in Paris. He earned that position as court jeweller and maker of a small, but exquisite range of jewellery. A (re)discovery of a Baugrand piece is a rare thing to happen and causes excitement every single time, and objects in the Japanese style: only a few of them are known.
One of those pieces is our miniature carriage clock beautifully enamelled with chickens, leaves, flowers and even a dragon on the dial, and the name of Gustave Baugrand calligraphed in Japanese style with gold cloisons. Although the design is not by Falize, the enamelling is by Antoine Tard, without whom Falize could never have produced his Japanese jewels in the same way. Given the few examples of Japonism known in Baugrand’s production, it is likely it was a special command.
Discover the Falize jewels here.
Discover the miniature carriage clock by Gustave Baugrand and Antoine Tard here.
Research based on:
- Katherine Purcell: Falize, A Dynasty of Jewelers
- Wartski: Japonisme: From Falize to Fabergé, the Goldsmith and Japan
- Henri Vever (ed. Katherine Purcell): French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century