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"L'Anémone des Bois", A French Art Nouveau masterwork by René Lalique. Created in 1897, this 18 karat gold brooch showcases Lalique's mastery of "plique-à-jour" enamel and also represents one of his earliest explorations of the art of molded glass. The brooch is accented by two oval faceted aquamarines weighing approximately 8.10 and 3.75 carats. More than any technical mastery or gemological import, the brooch is distinguished by its aesthetics and its deep meaning. This exquisite "Anémones des Bois" brooch is an important example of René Lalique's early work, predating his international debut at the Exposition Universelle of 1900. While his most prolific version of the anemone motif was the "Anémone couronnée" or poppy anemone, only a few choice pieces depict the "Anémone des Bois" or wood anemone. Unlike the poppy anemone, which grew in the balmy Mediterranean summer, the Anémone des Bois was known to the French as the harbinger of spring. While the forest floor lay dormant, the wood anemone alone reared its small head. Areas where the poor could pick this humble flower were demarcated with signs reading "Les Halles." The Anémone des Bois lined the border of the forest, enticing promenading couples into the forest's embrace for an afternoon tryst. Pure white anemones thus became a symbol of virginal purity, mourning its imminent profanity by carnal desire. Lalique knew these traditions well from spending his childhood and summer holidays in the commune of Aÿ in Marne, located on a plateau overlooking the hillsides of Champagne. Two forests dominated the Marne landscape. To the west lay the old-growth forest of Sermiers, and to the east lay La forêt domaniale du Chêne à la Vierge. Promenading in the forest was a popular Sunday pastime for locals, especially as a way to escape the unrelenting dry heat of the noonday sun. Lalique expanded upon the theme of carnal desire, using the anemone to allegorize the stages of courtship. Our Anémone des Bois marked the beginning of this five-year-long exploration. With its petals slightly closed, the flower embodies the initial "rejet" or rejection of love. Fitting of a depiction of "rejet" the work epitomizes divine symmetry and youthful vigor. The flower's posture relates to local wisdom: villagers could tell rain was coming when the Anémone des Bois closed its petals. By closing its petals, the flower rebuffs the words and sexual advances of the man.

- L'Anemone des Bois - Art Nouveau brooch with aquamarine, diamond and plique-à-jour enamel, Lalique,1897

The second anemone in the series has its petals in disarray but receptive to potential pollination. An anemone in this position embodied "l'acceptation de l'amour" or the acceptance of love. The third anemone is the most sensual of the series, two anemones approach a passionate kiss, embodying the "consommation" or consummation. The final anemone in the series was completed in 1901. Titled "Mort de l'anémone" it is Lalique's only representation of the blue anemone. Through the consummation, its petals have been dyed and its purity defiled. In macabre detail, the skeletal structure of the anemone's rhizomes, or underground stems, are put on full view. The plant has been uprooted, and the encounter has finished. Contemporary novelist Émile Pouvillon related the death of the anemone to the act of deflowering in his 1895 short story "Les Anémones sont Mortes." The story's heroine, a young country girl, loses herself in a bout of unrestrained euphoria with her lover. In their rolling about, "Anémones des Bois" are ripped out and bruised. At the 1898 Salon, the first Anémone des Bois was a critical triumph. Displayed with the second and third anemone in the series, the first was favored for its fully articulated plique-à-jour leaves. In the premier French decorative arts magazine Art et Décoration, the Anémone des Bois was praised for its "candid whiteness" and leaves that suggest "an infinitely complicated and precious architecture." Our Anémone des Bois is resplendent with the technical acuity that made Lalique known as the "master of modern bijoux (jewellery.)" In his early years, Lalique personally designed and modeled each mold for his creations in clay. These molds were then cast in iron and coated with a paste of resin and beeswax, hand-tooled for detail. The finish pressed-glass jewel was submerged in a bath of hydrofluoric acid, frosting the exterior. A thin layer of "jade green" powdered enamel was sifted and annealed onto the piece. The venation of each petal was painstakingly cut, revealing the plain crystal underneath. The warm glow of the gold backing gives the piece a breathtaking amber hue.

The Macklowe Gallery website is a treasure trove of information. Take time and peruse their inventory of jewellery, Tiffany lamps and art glass, but not only... their Education tab is a must see for anyone interested in jewellery and Art Nouveau.

Follow them on Instagram @macklowegallery

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