The octopus and the butterfly...
The embodiment of ethereal airiness and the frightening inhabitant of water in this masterpiece of jewelry at the turn of the century is like a mirror of a society seeking new impressions... It symbolically encompasses the desire for the dualism of Art Nouveau time: the desire to experience something unprecedented, as well as - to fascinate and intimidate.
Baroque pearls, which are the core element of this piece of jewelry, are able to surprise with the possibilities of "deception" of shape and surface. The brilliant sparkle of diamonds makes you pay attention to the most microscopic details and look for a solution to this captivating and frightening guessing game.
Accents of red rubies alongside colorful enamel butterfly wings and gilded octopus tentacles, as well as a freshwater pearl pendant - create a strange impression of the incompatible union, a tangle of strangeness and exploration of the secrets of a new, suggestive world, which for some time creates visual associations with pendants created at the end of the 16th century. However, they also shone with emeralds, included pearls of baroque and the colorful gemstones coexisted with the fantasies of the New World explorers.
But this brooch was produced several centuries later. On the threshold of the 20th century, it makes you look back and announce an alternative vision of things and phenomena that will be gradually explored.
Symbolism and Secrets of Subconscious
The name of Wilhelm Lucas von Cranach (1861-1918) in the Art Nouveau art scene attracts attention at one moment. And don't be surprised, because the legend of this name is especially suggestive! The master of the turn-of-the-century jewelry design is the successor of the same famous Northern Renaissance genius Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), who has written his name in art history as a German painter, interior designer, and, of course, jewelry designer. It was the field of jewelry making that brought the greatest recognition, and his works attracted no less attention than the work of the famous French contemporary - René Lalique.
Immediately after studying art in Weimar and Paris, Wilhelm Lucas von Cranach has been working in Berlin since 1893 as a portrait and landscape painter. He additionally became an interior designer in several East German castles, including Wartburg Castle in Thuringia.
The activities in jewelry design coincided with the beginning of the Art Nouveau fashion era and the spread of symbolism motifs. In the 1890s, Wilhelm Lucas von Cranach was inspired by the jewelry trends of his time, including the works of the Russian author Joullovski. Hence, he turned to the work of the goldsmith and silversmith, because it was in his genes. Cranach really excelled in this field with his ability to masterfully combine various precious metals and even won a gold medal at the Grand Exhibition in Paris in 1900. (Fahr-Becker G. Art Nouveau. - Ullmann Publishing, 2007. - p. 395.)
Wilhelm Lucas von Cranach once created such compelling "deceptive" effects that it would be problematic to confuse his work in jewelry with that of another contemporary. Brooches, pendants, and pins that surprise with their naturalism and ability to reproduce a variety of natural motifs seem endless... But even more serious represent Cranach's contribution to the mood of symbolism.
Like his contemporaries, Cranach was fascinated by the mysterious radiance of opals. Opals had once again become a fashion item, and in European jewelry, the spread of these stones must be linked to the flourishing art of symbolism. Many of Cranach's contemporaries in Germany were focused more on the geometric variety of Art Nouveau style. At the same time, Cranach was more attracted to mystical symbolism and was mythologizing the image of a woman which in this respect allows him to be compared with the Parisian symbolists and, in particular, with René Lalique.
Cranach was able to be not only a profound symbolist but also an outstanding witty man who did not lose touch with the current trends of his time. Proof of this is an exuberant and very funny brooch - "Rooster and Hen". (see a picture above).
Once more, branched and flexible lines of natural motifs appear here, and once again there are unusual pearls that have turned into strangely dynamic creatures, living their independent lives in an extraordinary world, delighting and suggesting the Art Nouveau circles, and continuing to surprise everyone who admires historical jewelry even today.
References & Further Reading:
1. Fahr-Becker G. Art Nouveau. - Ullmann Publishing, 2007.