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Art Basel and La Prairie: an Inspired Partnership

19 Apr 2021

Art Basel, the renowned art exhibition held in Basel, Switzerland, is the world's premier art show for modern and contemporary works. The organisation also holds shows in Miami Beach and Hong Kong. Defined by its host city and region, each show is unique – a uniqueness reflected in its participating galleries, the artworks presented, as well as the content of parallel programming produced in collaboration with local institutional partners.

La Prairie will partner with Art Basel in a first-of-its-kind partnership from June 12-19, 2017. As part of this exciting initiative, La Prairie will be present in Art Basel’s VIP Lounge throughout the duration of the fair, where visitors will have the opportunity to experience the La Prairie universe and enjoy customised La Prairie treatments.

Using rare, precious ingredients, La Prairie continues to break the codes of luxury skincare. Founded on the belief that the scientist’s creative process is akin to that of the artist, every La Prairie formulation begins with an audacious vision.

“We are very excited about the partnership between La Prairie and Art Basel, which we feel perfectly represents our quest for timeless beauty and our passion for audacity,” said Patrick Rasquinet, President and CEO of La Prairie Group. “Indeed, from the painstaking research behind our scientific breakthroughs to the opulent formulations that envelop the senses, from the jewel-like packaging to the high-touch service, art is not just what La Prairie is, it is what we do,” he added.

That innovative spirit is mirrored in the world of contemporary art. “Art Basel gathers influencers from the international artistic community who seek to push the envelope of what is possible, which is why we feel a partnership with La Prairie is reflective of Art Basel’s values,” said Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel.

In addition to establishing the partnership with Art Basel in 2017, La Prairie will also mark the 30th anniversary of its iconic Skin Caviar. To celebrate the occasion, La Prairie plans to collaborate on an artistic installation with a select group of contemporary artists. Check this space for updates. 

Keywords: Art, Art Basel, Artists, Audacious, Luxury, Innovation, Contemporary Art

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Majestic Matterhorn: Behind the Lens

19 Apr 2021

A symbol of eternity and audacious beauty, the Matterhorn is the iconic image of Switzerland — one that represents La Prairie.

Such is the mountain’s breathtaking allure, it has been an inspiration to countless artists for centuries. John Ruskin, the great Victorian art critic and social commentator, declared it “the most noble cliff in Europe”. He not only painted the Matterhorn, he also took the first photograph of it in 1849.

The majestic mountain continues to captivate artists and audiences today.

Nenad Saljic’s haunting black-and-white photographs of the mountain have earned him two National Geographic Awards, and resulted in the honour of being named Professional Landscape Photographer of the Year at the 2013 Sony World Photography Awards.

Nenad, who was born in Croatia, became enraptured with mountaineering on a school hiking trip when he was only 12 years old. Seven years later, he climbed Mont Blanc. But it wasn’t until his 40s that Nenad first set eyes on the bewitching Matterhorn Mountain.

“That was love at first sight,” admitted Nenad, who now lives in Zermatt, which boasts arresting views of the mountain. In 2009, he first began photographing the Matterhorn, a project that lasted several years until 2015.

The fulfilling endeavour resulted in several thousand portraits and his book "Matterhorn: Portrait of a Mountain." It features 43 black-and-white duotone photographs accompanied by a timeline of the most significant events in the Matterhorn’s history.

Photo credit: Nenad Saljic

“There are several aspects of the Matterhorn that have attracted me,” Nenad pronounced. “Artistically, it is one of the world’s most magnificent mountains – with its pyramidal shape and solitary position it could be considered an ideal mountain. The Matterhorn even produces its own banner clouds due to the special atmospheric conditions.” 

Nenad is also attracted to its rich history. The Matterhorn had long been deemed inaccessible, and it remained unclimbed long after most of the other great Alpine peaks had been reached. Edward Whymper finally conquered the mountain in 1865, marking the end of the golden age of Alpinism.

“The triumph and tragedy of this feat marks the epitome of our human desire to explore and venture beyond our limitations, simultaneously reminding us of how great and how small we are,” asserted Nenad. “The Matterhorn is a product of geological processes that transcend human beings and our concept of time.”

Photo credit: Nenad Saljic

A trained mountaineer and caver, he has never climbed a mountain that has had such a pull on him. “I think there is a Buddhist saying that the best view of a mountain is not from the top, because once you are on the summit you cannot see the mountain itself. This is a nice philosophical excuse, at least,” he stated.

Eternally captivated, Nenad finds that time gradually slows down when he is working, and eventually seems to stop entirely.

Matterhorn, Switzerland, Photography, Artist, Nenad Saljic, Art, Portrait of a Mountain

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La Prairie Invites: Audemars Piguet

For its first edition of La Prairie Invites, the premier luxury skincare brand talks to Audemars Piguet about the beauty of timelessness.
19 Apr 2021

Just like La Prairie, Audemars Piguet has been inextricably linked to art from its very beginnings. With a shared vision for audacity, unparalleled aesthetics and timelessness, both luxury Swiss brands have a partnership with Art Basel — the world's premier modern and contemporary art fair — which has shows in Basel, Hong Kong and Miami. 

Audemars Piguet, one of the world's most celebrated luxury watch manufacturers, has mastered the art of perfection with rule-breaking innovation.

In 1972 — 97 years after its birth — the Swiss brand dared to do the unthinkable. As part of an eternal quest to combine artistic excellence and technical expertise, Audemars Piguet launched a watch that rocked the tranquil waters of horology. It transcended the inelegant confines of the average sports watch to produce a masterpiece of opulence and engineering. 

The Royal Oak was both sporty and infinitely beautiful. Treated with the reverence of gold, its steel case had an astonishing lustre. The bezel was a groundbreaking octagonal shape and the dial’s tapisserie pattern captivated with its ability to reflect light. With its audacious design and breathtaking craftsmanship, the Royal Oak entered the elite club of timeless classics.

 Based in the Vallée de Joux, known as the cradle of fine watchmaking, the brand continues to be revered for its innovation and sophistication. It still inspires the Royal Oak’s devoted followers with regular updates and produces a limited 40,000 watches per year to ensure exclusivity across all its collections.

“I believe that luxury products have almost become a philosophical refuge from the pace of today’s world,” asserted Chadi Gruber, Audemars Piguet’s head of product development. “Luxury means taking your time in a world where everything is too fast. We are proposing a slow perfection.” 

Luxuries not only make time appear to stand still — they can also produce a poetic resonance. 

“The creativity of our designs and movements, and the painstaking precision and rarity of our materials, provide an escape from pure vital needs,” stated Chadi.

“We create objects that allow you to travel internally, like art does. We’re here to create emotions and make people travel outside the purely material and technological world.  You can see the artist’s soul in its work and for me it’s the same thing for our watches. They include a part of the artisan’s soul. I often make the analogy between our watches and art because, for me, a watch is a painting that you wear on your wrist.”

The birthplace of the brand, Switzerland has become synonymous with luxury, elegance and precision because of its centuries-old culture of embracing seriousness, refusing to compromise on quality and valuing hard work, Chadi stated.

The industrious character of the Swiss, along with the harsh weather, helped them to become world leaders in horology, as farmers with a penchant for precision turned to watchmaking during the long winters. 

Today, Audemars Piguet continues to create timeless elegance by never forgetting its rich past and having a vision for the future.

How does it manage to keep ahead of time?

“I would say we’re perfectly on time. We just know it before others,” declared Chadi.

Audemars Piguet, Time, Luxury, Swiss Watches, Art Basel, Royal Oak

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Rejuvenation at Night

Night time is the skin’s ideal moment for rejuvenation
19 Apr 2021

Night-time offers the precious gift of sleep, a vital sanctuary from the rigours of life that enables the body and mind to maintain a poetic balance.

But while the body rests, the very cells where beauty is born engage in an extraordinary process of rejuvenation.

“In the skin, many molecular, cellular and physiological processes follow a circadian rhythm, some of them peaking at night,” stated Dr Jacqueline Hill, Director of Strategic Innovation and Science at La Prairie.

Transepidermal water loss — moisture lost through the skin — is higher at night, as are blood flow and skin temperature. On a cellular level, epidermal stem cell proliferation rises, which leads to increased skin renewal. Specific repair mechanisms, such as DNA repair, are also active mainly at night.

“The abundance of replenishment that takes place while the body is at rest makes the night the perfect time for renewal,” asserted Dr Hill. There is also a dramatic decrease of exposure to environmental aggressors, which allows an increased focus on repair as opposed to defence. 

While the skin is more prone to becoming dehydrated at night, it is also more apt to absorb treatments applied during this timeframe. A bedtime ritual using sumptuous ingredients to nourish the skin is therefore vital to support nocturnal rejuvenation.

 The first step to holding back time is to gently cleanse the skin, as retiring to bed with make-up or traces of dirt and pollution on the skin can lead to clogged pores and inflammation. By purifying the skin, the effects of daily exposure to pollutants are minimised before damage can take place.

Night-time hydration plays a crucial role in keeping skin healthy, radiant and youthful. So after cleansing and toning, products enriched with active ingredients that enhance the skin’s natural moisture levels, and strengthen its barrier, should be applied.

These should include anti-aging treatments that target personal skincare concerns – such as fine lines, excess pigmentation or lack of radiance.

So, when night falls, remember to lavish the skin with enriched ingredients to enhance the magical process of rejuvenation. For it is these starlit hours that are the key to a world of beauty with no temporal limits.

Skin Rejuvenation, Platinum, Skincare, Active Ingredients, Anti-Aging

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The Masterpiece Defined

Fascinating. Surprising. Timeless. From creative work to masterpiece.
19 Apr 2021

What disparate threads, insights and ingenuity come together in the making of a masterpiece? Be it a painting, viewed by millions through the centuries, a work of architecture that reimagines what a functional structure can be or a sculpture that alters the way in which a society understands itself, what are the elements necessary to elevate a creation to a masterpiece?

"It became evident that it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to articulate a definition of masterpiece that could be accepted universally," former Louvre director Henri Loyrette wrote, in the catalogue for "The Louvre and the Masterpiece," a 2009 exhibition at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Certainly, a precise summary may be hard to grasp. But we know that they are gifts to us all, objects which live beyond the limits of time. They are different anything that has come before. They teach us something new, they speak of a place in time and culture, they communicate with us in a unique way.

The Mona Lisa is the example that comes most quickly to mind. There are countless Renaissance portraits. And yet, the mystique of the seated, dark-haired woman’s smile has rendered Leonardo da Vinci’s work one which has intoxicated experts and mere observers alike. According to Louvre Curator Jean-Pierre Cuzin: “The entire history of portraiture afterward depends on the Mona Lisa. If you look at all the other portraits… if you look at Picasso, at everyone you want to name, all of them were inspired by this painting.” 
This influence and intrigue, refracted through the centuries, is surely a mark of a true masterpiece. From questions of her true identity to revelations of the original brush strokes hidden under the painting’s many layers of pigment, the Mona Lisa has never ceased to surprise. But this intriguing quality alone is not enough to make a masterpiece. 

One could argue that a masterpiece begins by breaking the mould. The convention-shattering Bauhaus School of Design, for example, with its stark focus on the removal of all but the necessary, favouring minimal lines and clean finishes – so very different from the other, grander architectural and decorative conventions of the early 20th century – resulted in ground-breaking structural design, as seen in the iconic minimalist Villa Tugendhat in Brno, in the Czech Republic. 

The aesthetic principles of the Bauhaus movement’s first director, Walter Gropius, as well as those of his successors, Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, reverberate around the globe today. They are evident in the 20th-century tower blocks of Europe, with their lack of adornment and dedication to simplicity. And yet, in the beginning, the Bauhaus school of faced persecution by conservative political powers, fearing its radical innovation and commitment to new ways of thinking. 

Perhaps the most startling paradox of a true masterpiece is the way in which it is both iconic - endlessly depicted and referenced - and yet forever mysterious. Imagine the infinite replications of symbolist Austrian artist Gustav Klimt’s 1912 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, also known as ‘The Lady in Gold’ - forever followed by questions as to the exact nature of the painter’s relationship to his muse. 

In this case, the curiosity stems – at least in part – from the resplendent use of shimmering tones: 

“The golden image of Adele Bloch-Bauer I cast a spell over me even as an art history student,” said Dr. Tobias Natter, Vienna-based art historian.

It could also be due to the unique historical context in which the piece was produced when women were striving for educational and social freedom. 

“Gustav Klimt’s brilliant artistic career coincided with a period of profound cultural, social and political ferment that witnessed fundamental changes in the position women occupied in society,” notes writer and curator Dr. Jill Lloyd, in Natter’s 2016 book Klimt and the Women of Vienna's Golden Age, 1900–1918. 

This curiosity about both the techniques used and the social context in which the work was produced highlights its status as a masterpiece.

Be it through its mystery, its influence, its beauty or its context, a masterpiece above all tells a story – of what has been and what is now. It draws lines from those who came before to us in our present world, from each individual to the other, through shared values and appreciation for the timeless. 
 

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, 1907 (oil, silver & gold on canvas), Klimt, Gustav (1862-1918) / Neue Galerie, New York, USA / De Agostini Picture Library / E. Lessing / Bridgeman Images

Art, Masterpiece, Gustav Klimt, Bauhaus

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MELLERIO AND THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-JOAILLERIE

Cultivating heritage as a way to move forward.
19 Apr 2021

Power and prestige, innovation and preservation, unrivalled beauty and far-reaching heritage: Such are the pillars which support Mellerio, the world’s oldest haute-joaillerie house. Across fourteen generations and four centuries, Mellerio has decorated monarchs and provided items of jewellery for society’s highest figures and establishments. Today, this eminent family continues to create custom-made objects, highly sought-after by private buyers and collectors alike.

Enriched by their traditions, driven by craftsmanship, and helped along the way by the patronage of powerful historical figures, Mellerio deftly mines its past as a powerful dynamic force, and balances tradition and exploration as twin cornerstones of its identity. The House’s pursuit of brilliance in luxury has always been based upon a relentless inventiveness, and its era-spanning past provides a foundation on which its future is continually constructed anew. 

Fourteen Generations of Unrivalled Excellence

Prior to their fortuitous relocation to Paris from the Lombardy village of Craveggia in the 16th century, the Mellerio family were travelling silversmiths, carrying their wares and crafted items from place to place. However, the company founder, Jean-Marie Mellerio, then under the guidance of Queen Marie de’ Medici, decided to take his family firm to new heights and to an enduring home in the French capital in the early years of the 17th century. Thus began a deep and lasting connection of the Maison with royalty and regality; one which saw the family working for many Royals from Marie Antoinette to Empress Josephine, and from the Maharani of Kapurthala to the royal houses of Spain, the Netherlands, and beyond.  

The origins of these mutually beneficial royal associations have slipped into apocrypha over time. The most enduring of these legends involves silversmith Jean-Marie Mellerio helping to foil an assassination plot against King Louis XIII. This supposedly led to the royal decree by Marie de’ Medici in 1613 which granted special privileges to the Mellerio family, and positioned them as favourites at the French royal court. 

That Mellerio continued to gain the patronage of royal dynasties across the centuries, legends aside, should come as no great surprise: after all, who better to decorate the great dynasties of the world than a great dynasty of artists? Establishing the name of Mellerio as jewellers of unrivalled prestige, the Maison developed a clear mission: to ensure that each successive generation of Mellerio artists remained deeply aware of their heritage, whilst envisioning the path laid ahead. 

A jeweller from Mellerio’s workshop working on the placement of a precious gem. Credit ©Mellerio

The lengthy list of ‘firsts’ achieved by members of each generation clearly demonstrates such vision in action. The Mellerio were the first family to open a shop on the esteemed Rue de la Paix, a move made by Francois Mellerio in 1815. A few years later, in 1854, the Mellerio family patented an innovative flexible shank setting, furthering the evolution of haute-joaillerie as a whole, whilst also serving as a reminder of the company’s origins as silversmiths of the highest order. 

The impetus to perpetuate the past while continually remaining tied to the contemporary times is a defining feature of Mellerio. It is embedded in certain unutterably delicate items, deemed as among the company’s highest points in their illustrious history. Among them, The Mellerio Shell Tiara, a unique and dazzling piece made for the 1867 Paris Exhibition, which was best known as being a public favourite of Sofia, the former Queen of Spain. Being the first ever item of jewellery to use platinum as a principal decorative metal, the Mellerio Shell Tiara represented a significant milestone for the industry. The blending of the contemporary and the timeless, bringing together high fashion and tradition, led to a showpiece which has radiantly shone as a key part of a dynastic convention.

The Mellerio Shell Tiara, made for the 1867 Paris Exhibition. Credit ©Mellerio

Protecting Treasures, Preserving Values

Each successive generation of the Mellerio family has been meticulous in the preservation of every single commission, receipt, letter, and design made over the past few hundred years, resulting in a jewellery archive at the Maison Mellerio unlike any other. 

This emphasis on preservation played a key role in the history of Mellerio, not least during the turbulent years at the end of the 18th century. The revolution of 1789 was perhaps the most obvious and world-changing of Mellerio’s disruptive phases, as it broke the foundation the Mellerio family had established for themselves alongside the French monarchy. 

Before the fleeing Mellerio family made their journey to the Spanish royal court, the House made sure to protect many items favoured by the doomed royals, as a gesture of respect to their most esteemed clients. The Mellerio archives in Craveggia, Lombardy, where Mellerio was born, still feature clothing worn by Marie Antoinette and a host of royal seals and documents; further evidence of the close bond and mutual respect which existed between the House of Mellerio and the court of Versailles. 

The recent Madreperla earings attest of Mellerio’s long  tradition of innovation and high craftsmanship. Credit ©Mellerio

The commitment to preservation, protection, and resistance throughout eras of great unrest is pivotal in understanding the Mellerio timeline. Indeed, the history of this great family has been typified as being made up of several distinct cycles, including three key components: anchoring, disruption, and resilience. The jewellery House has repeatedly entrenched itself within a location and an era and was each time reborn after being upended and disrupted in some dramatic manner. The revolution, the occupation of Paris during the Second World War, and untimely deaths of key family members would all be counted on such a list. This cycle has always invariably ended with a newly-established Maison Mellerio into a new age, with steely determination and a wealth of new ideas, patrons, and influences.

Inheriting the Past, Crafting the Future

The family as a chain and its duty to preserve the past is only one side of the glittering coin defining Mellerio’s identity. The House of Mellerio keenly recognises their ancient heritage, forged by individuals influenced by the style and fashions of their time, who brought their own unique talents to the family. Jean-Francois Mellerio, who oversaw the company in the mid-19th century, put great emphasis on draughtsmanship and painting in the design process. To this day, all Mellerio designs are first carried out with brush and paint, partly to ensure the highest levels of quality, and partly to continue the techniques he championed.

Such pioneers’ craftsmanship and vision have led to the creation of genuine wonders. The imitation of nature, as seen in the Peacock Aigrette presented to the Maharani Rani Prem Kaur, remains one of Mellerio’s most iconic pieces. This item, so pristine with the feathers, colours, and the bejewelment of the bird, was crafted thanks to the use of groundbreaking new techniques, bringing together multiple enamels, gold, and diamonds, making this treasured creation one of the most impressive examples of Mellerio’s innovative talent.

Peacock Aigrette: Mellerio created this piece in 1905 for Maharaja Jagatjit Singh of Kapurthala. It is featured in portraits of the Maharaja’s fifth wife, Rani Prem Kaur. Credit: @Mellerio

 As the new millennium dawned, the company philosophy of excellence, timeless craftsmanship, and forward-thinking design was proven intact once more. A powerful example came in the year 2005, which saw the release and patenting of the Mellerio Exclusive Cut; a stunning oval diamond cut made up of fifty-seven glittering facets and offering unrivalled brilliance. One of their latest series, the Isola Bella collection, celebrates the baroque beauty of the palace of Lake Maggiore, and clearly demonstrate the house’s ongoing commitment to blending the classical with the contemporary. The striking Madreperla ring and earrings in this collection recall the splendour and vivid mastery seen on items such as the Peacock Aigrette, and provide a testament to Mellerio’s dedication to unwavering excellence in a modern haute-joaillerie market. 

The Madreperla ring from a recent collection. Credit ©Mellerio

Preservation and commitment to the contemporary world, far from being polar opposites, are two of the key pillars of the Mellerio family — values that have allowed the House to continually dazzle with new ideas, while consistently paying homage to a past which has been providing endless inspiration. By addressing their illustrious past, Mellerio carve new paths for future generations to follow. The essence of the contemporary never ceases to evolve; that of the timeless, however, remains eternal.

Mellerio, High Jewellery, Heritage, Haute

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THE HOUSE OF WORTH AND THE ORIGIN OF HAUTE-COUTURE

Audacity and rarity at the root of a legend.
19 Apr 2021

The world of fashion is a complex, cyclical, and ever-evolving one, a patchwork of influences, iconic figures, changing tastes and trends. However, unpick the historical thread of haute-couture and follow it back through the decades, it would eventually lead to a singular, forward-thinking figure: one whose bold ideas and unique vision laid the groundwork for the world of fashion as we know it today.

Charles Frederick Worth is widely referred to as the father of haute-couture and the founding figure of fashion as an industry and artform. Through his creations, his concepts, and his entirely new ways of approaching dressmaking, Charles Frederick Worth was able to define the image of his own era and provide inspiration for a multitude of designers that followed. Taking inspiration from the glories of times passed, while fixing his sights firmly on the future of his industry, Worth crystallised the flamboyance and beauty of the present. In doing so, he created ripples which are still felt today in the world of haute couture, which will continue to influence and inform our concept of luxury as the future unfolds.

From Humble Roots to Haute-Couture

Born in 1825 into an impoverished family in Lincolnshire, England, Charles Frederick Worth’s entry into the world of fashion was established at a young age. He spent much of his youth working as an apprentice at two different textile merchants in London. 

During his time away from the workshop, he would gaze for hours at the wonders of the National Gallery, fixated by the beauty of the dresses captured in oil paintings of historic queens and aristocratic ladies. It was in those echoing halls that Worth’s unrivalled sense of style and artistry first began to take shape, and from the billowing gowns, exquisite trimmings, and masterful artistry of previous eras, he started forming an eye for detail that would define his own future, and which would play a key role in shaping the world of fashion as we know it. 

Portrait of Charles Frederick Worth by Nadar Félix. Credit ©Ministère de la Culture -Médiathèque de l'architecture et du patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Félix Nadar.

Worth’s insatiable appetite for new ideas was forged in the heat of an art scene rediscovering the purity of a past, one which was free from the increasing mechanisation of England’s industrial revolution. Medieval masquerades were all the rage in London’s high society, and Romanticism and Neoclassicism were en vogue during the designer’s formative years. Worth’s path, which would combine the brilliance of regal history with the ever more flamboyant demands of high society, was being paved ahead of him. It was a path that would see his work raise fashion to the status of an unquestioned art form, and naturally, it led from London towards the glittering streets of Imperial Paris. 

Upon arriving in Paris at age twenty, Worth quickly found work with Gagelin, a major textiles company which refined and furthered what he had learned during his apprenticeship. Ever the ambitious social climber, Gagelin allowed the young artisan to open a dressmaking department as an extension of their business. It was not long before his eye-catching, distinctive work became the talk of the town; so much so that his trailblazing gowns and creations were featured in the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, and the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1855. This rapid ascendency allowed the young Worth to make a name for himself in Paris’ most fashionable circles, yet his star was still to rise considerably further.

Capturing the Essence of the Bespoke

Paris in the 1850s was a city in the midst of an entirely new cultural dynamism, led by the restoration of the royal house, and with Napoleon III crowning the city as a show home for new European ideas and fashions. When Napoleon wed Empress Eugenie, her exquisite fashion sense set the template for the women of high society in Paris to follow. The demand for luxury goods, especially luxurious items of dress, soared to new, dizzying heights.

In 1858, Worth was able to open his own store to showcase his creations and his new approaches to high fashion, and once Empress Eugenie began regularly stepping through his doors on rue de la Paix and commissioning works from Worth, his reputation exploded. Such patronage, such runaway popularity, and such a privileged position allowed him the full freedom to follow his instincts and passions, and realise what he once dreamed of whilst sitting on the viewing benches at the National Gallery. 

Portrait of Empress Eugénie, wearing a Worth dress, by Jean Marius Fouque, after Franz Xaver Winterhalter. Credit ©RMN-Grand Palais (musée d'Orsay) / Michel Urtado.

Charismatic to the core, Empress Eugenie and her court were deeply charmed by the Englishman, and they were keen to show off the talents of their new favourite dressmaker at various state functions. Society balls at court, the intimate receptions at the Tuileries, and events like horse races in Longchamp became the 19th century equivalent of today’s fashion shows. The Parisian ladies of high society would display their latest items of haute-couture, which would be admired by figures from throughout the Second Empire and the wider world. 

While Worth’s eccentric, flamboyant and heavily elaborate designs borrowed extensively from a quasi-imagined past, his reputation and the flurry of excitement surrounding him was founded on entirely new practices which had simply never been seen before. He was, on the one hand, committed to meeting the ever-more luxurious demands of his clientele. On the other, he broke new ground by dictating the terms on which his dresses were designed, fitted and created. Prior to Worth’s arrival as a fashion designer par excellence, ladies would have selected  fabrics themselves, and their clothes would have been made from pre-existing templates. Worth’s vision, however, was based upon the uniqueness of each silhouette and fit, and from reimagining design features from prior centuries, acting as flourishes for thoroughly modern designs. In such practices, his clothing would epitomise the essence of the bespoke. Through his singularity of artistic expression, and his unshakeable belief in his talents, ideas, and creative drive, the notion of haute-couture was born.

Inventiveness to Echo Through the Ages

True artistry in any discipline rarely comes about as a result of following the crowd, and Worth was a man destined to lead with his unending roster of industry-defining ideas. Forever working by his own rules, The House of Worth was the first of its kind in many ways. His pioneering showrooms used live models rather than mannequins to display his dresses, which then would be customised and fitted to the client’s unique body shape or personal style. Furthermore, nobody prior to Worth had entertained the notion of the seasonal collection, nor had they explored bringing their designs and ideas to a truly international market. Worth was keen, from as early as 1855, to export his most original models to London and elsewhere in Europe, and by the 1860s, Worth creations were being purchased from the most luxurious department stores of New York, and beyond.

Originality, boldness and inventiveness were the core principles to which Charles Worth was committed. It is often claimed his designs were the first to ever be recognisably masterpieces of their creator. It is not easy to imagine just how groundbreaking that must have been; for the very first time, the craft of dressmaking and fashion had been elevated to the status of a high art, driven by innovation, inspiration, and with the vision of the artist taking precedence over the whims or wishes of the client. The essence of putting an individual stamp onto his work was not merely metaphorical, either, as Worth was also the first to add a signed label to this clothing. While the labels were originally printed onto the interior of the waistband, his name was so renowned that the ladies wearing his clothes would reverse the waistband, in order to display the label as a key feature of their bespoke dresses. The designer label, in the most literal sense, was thus brought into being.

Etiquette : Worth, 7, rue de la Paix, Paris Vers 1875. Localisation : Etats-Unis, Philadelphie (Pa.), Philadelphia Museum of Art. Credit ©The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image Philadelphia Museum of Art

The heady, extravagant, and opulent years of the Second Empire were, of course, not to last, and Worth lived long enough to see its collapse and the disappearance of the Parisian royal court. However, due to the new paradigms in fashion dreamt up by Charles Worth, the days of traditional dressmaking had by this time disappeared forever. As with the dawn of every great artistic movement, the world of fashion had been utterly redrawn, and the demand for bespoke items, conjured from the hands of singular artists, would never waver thereafter. Haute-couture had well and truly arrived, and in the creation of this artform, Charles Worth tore up the rulebook, and  wrote one anew on pages of velvet, lace, and silk.

Worth, High-Fashion, Rarity, Haute

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One Hundred Years of Bauhaus

A Century of Timelessness.
19 Apr 2021

Few artistic movements have made an impact quite like that of Bauhaus. Indeed, the word itself has become a noun, an adjective, and a household name; the mention of Bauhaus immediately conjures up images of tower blocks and typefaces, of bold architectural aesthetics and pared-back furnishings, and a remarkably wide array of design features in possession of the unmistakable Bauhaus idiom. The artists who studied Bauhaus, most notably the founding father of modern art, Wassily Kandinsky, went on to reimagine painting for a new age and create entirely new visual languages with which to reshape culture as we know it. Celebrated Bauhaus architects, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, would spread their influence as far as Chandigarh in India, Chicago, Tel Aviv, and beyond, and traces of Bauhaus style can be seen everywhere from flat-pack furniture to the minimalist aesthetic of today’s smartphones. This movement, this school of thought as much as design, became the typeface in which the future was written.

Founded in the German Weimar Republic (1913 - 1933), Bauhaus served to break down the barriers between artistry and craftsmanship, with its sights set on a utopian aim of forging a new industry-spanning aesthetic. Driven by experimentation and collaboration, and bolstered by enduring results and a broad spectrum of opinions and reactions, it set the pattern for the rest of the 20th century and today. Now in its centenary year, and after decades which saw Bauhaus equally scorned and celebrated, misunderstood, cast out, and finally adopted wholeheartedly by the mainstream, its adorers and critics alike are able to cast their eye over a century of influence and innovation. Behind Bauhaus' elegant and simplistic lines, and beneath its stark white exterior, we can uncover a true sense of timelessness which has informed the way we live.

Inception: From the Jugendstil to the Bauhaus

Despite its boldness and insistence on an entirely new order, a clear lineage and heritage which led to Bauhaus’ foundation can be traced. Walter Gropius, the Prussian architect behind the creation of the Bauhaus, was insistent on the Bauhaus approach being based on an equal value given to technical knowledge and artistic ability, an approach previously seen in the Jugendstil movement, and the English Arts and Crafts a few decades prior. The Jugendstil, with its youthful approach and the value it placed in high art being used for practical purposes embodied several significant aspects of what would become core tenets of the Bauhaus. Jugendstil artists were known for, among other things, using their collaborative talents to produce everything from architectural designs to stage sets, and from advertisements to more traditional canvases.

Another key movement which formed the bedrock on which the Bauhaus was built was the Wiener Werkstatte. Co-founder Josef Hoffmann, the Austrian ceramicist best known for his iconic monochromatic homewares and eccentric chair designs, demonstrated how the lines are drawn between high art, consumer goods, and industrial design were not as unwavering as was once supposed. One could, if one was on the hunt for the Bauhaus heritage, easily cite his talent and vision as being instrumental in the creation of both the Bauhaus approach and aesthetic in equal measures.

Hoffmann, Josef (1870-1956): liquor glass, Winer Werkstatte, around 1911. MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. Photograph: © Peter Kainz/MAK.
Hoffmann, Josef (1870-1956): liquor glass, Winer Werkstatte, around 1911. MAK - Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna. Photograph: © Peter Kainz/MAK.

Construction: Crossover Aesthetics and Enduring Powers

The creation of the Bauhaus as a physical space—and not merely an approach, concept, or aesthetic—was borne of collaboration and the result of a municipal project spearheaded by Gropius in conjunction with the state.The city of Dessau commissioned and supplied the plot of land for the school - the prospect of a new direction, a home-grown design idiom, and a new centre of artistic and technical excellence was clearly more than the local officials could resist.

Bauhaus building in Dessau by architect Walter Gropius. Photographer: Glenn Garriock.
Bauhaus building in Dessau by architect Walter Gropius. Photographer: Glenn Garriock.

The school’s original aims were to completely break down the boundaries between all artistic disciplines, and to erode the very systems of thought which separate high art from ‘craft’. Gropius’ founding proclamation was that of “a new building of the future, that will unite every discipline, and which would rise to heaven from the hands of a million workers, as a crystallised symbol of a new faith”. His was a concept of the crossover, taken to previously unimagined levels. The Hungarian artist and photographer Moholy-Nagy is a powerful example to consider. As one of the Bauhaus’s most celebrated associates, his work seamlessly blends technical brilliance with unhindered and liberated camerawork, traditional sculpture, and conceptual art in ways which were entirely new.

Moholy Nagy, Laszlo (1895-1946): Untitled. 1926. ©2019. Christie's Images, London/Scala, Florence.
Moholy Nagy, Laszlo (1895-1946): Untitled. 1926. ©2019. Christie's Images, London/Scala, Florence.

While the success of Gropius’ vision is perhaps best known through the modernist architectural idiom borne of Bauhaus design, the artistic heritage of the short-lived school can be found everywhere we look. Indeed, the bold use of line and colour, that unmistakably Bauhaus approach associated with artists and printmakers such as Oskar Schlemmer can be seen at supermarkets, on book covers and grocery packaging, in-car designs, luxury brands, road signs, kitchenware… the list of places in which the Bauhaus spirit of collaboration and the fundamentals of its aesthetic can be found goes on and on.

Schlemmer, Oskar (1888-1943): Diagram for "Gesture Dance", 1926. ©Public domain.
Schlemmer, Oskar (1888-1943): Diagram for "Gesture Dance", 1926. ©Public domain.

Deconstruction: Breaking Down Barriers in Art and Beyond

Bauhaus was always driven by the belief that in order for artistic ability to flourish, technical excellence must always be at its heart. While this belief was certainly vindicated with evidence of such surrounding us at every turn, the original school had its life cut short by the rise of National Socialism in 1930s Germany. World War II may have changed the direction of the Bauhaus ideology, but its value lost none of its value or ability to appeal, influence, and divide opinion. As the 20th century continued, artistic aesthetics and architectural design became increasingly visibly reminiscent of and inspired by the works which the Bauhaus had launched upon the public consciousness, and this trend seemingly lost none of its paces as the 20th century ended and the 21st began.

Kandinsky, Wassily (1866-1944): Soft pressure, 1931. Russia, 20th century. Private Collection. ©2019, DeAgostini Picture Library/Scala, Florence.
Kandinsky, Wassily (1866-1944): Soft pressure, 1931. Russia, 20th century. Private Collection. ©2019, DeAgostini Picture Library/Scala, Florence.

Perhaps one of the key catalysts of the timeless appeal of the Bauhaus was its becoming a global phenomenon, rather than a European-based approach to art and design. It is almost ironic that attempts to suppress the creative visions of the Bauhaus in 1930s Germany may have led to it becoming the worldwide tour de force we know it as today. Indeed, the latter half of the 1930s saw the vast majority of the original Bauhaus representatives emigrate to the United States, disillusioned by the backwards-looking artistic culture of Germany at the time. It took almost no time at all for their genius to be recognised by artistic communities of New York, and in 1938, the MoMA launched a full Bauhaus exhibition, thus cementing its position as the modernist global movement in art, architecture, and design.

Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig (1886-1969): New National Gallery, Berlin, Germany, 1968. Interior view of main entry area. New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Mies van der Rohe Archive, gift of the architect. ©2019. Digital image, The Museum of Modern Art, New York/Scala, Florence. 

Bauhaus: Shaping the World and Forming the Future

One hundred years on from the founding of perhaps the most influential artistic movement of the 20th century, how are we able to see Bauhaus from a holistic perspective, and with the benefit of hindsight? Undoubtedly, the school and its output created outrage among conservative society at the time.

However, at the end of a century of Bauhaus, we can see that the Bauhaus movement and school was not, as was often claimed, a threat the elegance of its predecessors. Nor is it the manifestation of one small group’s vision of modernism. Bauhaus was, is, and continues to be associated with an abundance of creative energies, true courage in conviction, and a movement which valued technical learnable skills as much as it did raw artistic talent. In these senses and more, it has managed to touch every aspect of commercial production and cultural life, and has made its mark on the artistic movements which followed, a variety of industries, and across almost every country on earth. From the smartphones in our pockets, to the art on our walls and the homes and cities in which we reside, we all live in a Bauhaus-inspired world.

Bauhaus, Anniversary, Design, Architecture

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The Hope Diamond

The Raw Splendour of an Eternal Object of Desire.
19 Apr 2021

Only a relatively minuscule fraction of the world’s great jewels has gained the status of being a household name. The Hope Diamond, also known as Le Bijou de Roi and the Tavernier Blue, is perhaps among the most widely renowned of them all. This flawless 45.52 carat gem was forged in the churning mantle of the Earth in time immemorial and created by conditions and pressures of unimaginable magnitude. The Hope Diamond redefined our concept of nature’s beauty, and even after five centuries of wonder, it remains one of the most fascinating objects of desire in the world today.

FROM THE DEPTHS OF THE EARTH TO THE WIDER WORLD

Formed over a billion years ago in India, and embedded in a casing of kimberlite, the Hope Diamond is thought to have been brought to the surface at some point during the beginning of the seventeenth century. The first records of this phenomenally large diamond arise in 1666, when it was purchased by Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, and weighed at 115 carats. Roughly-hewn, triangular in shape, and brimming with glittering potential as a result of its size and unique blue colour, Tavernier brought the diamond with him to Paris, where it would take the next essential steps on its incredible journey to prosperity. 

Once in Paris, it was almost inevitable that the Tavernier Blue diamond would gain the attention of royalty. Indeed, this peerless gem was sold, along with up to a thousand other diamonds, to King Louis XIV, who had it cut down to 67 carats and mounted on a cravat pin. He’d later have the diamond set in gold and fashioned into a ceremonial necklace. The diamond stayed within the royal household and underwent further changes within each generation. Louis XV had the gem set into an elaborate pendant for the Toison D’Or, but his grandson, Louis XVI had the diamond confiscated by government forces while fleeing Versailles. The Hope Diamond vanished for many years following a looting in 1792, but it resurfaced in London where, again, perhaps inevitably, it was purchased by the British royal house under King George IV. 

After passing into private ownership, the Hope Diamond made its way across the Atlantic to the New World. Auctioned to a buyer in Washington D.C, it spent some time being mounted onto an exquisite diamond headpiece at the turn of the 20th century. The gem was finally set into the platinum necklace we associate with the Hope Diamond to this day and recut to dazzle with its sixty exquisite facets. Such a precious and world-altering piece of jewellery was, of course, never destined to remain in private hands. Eventually, the Hope Diamond became a permanent part of the Smithsonian Collection, where it remains an almost mythic item, surrounded by era-traversing stories and legends of curses, and it continues to fascinate and inspire in a curious public a timeless sense of awe.

The Hope Diamond is on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution.
The Hope Diamond is on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution.

NATURE’S RADIANCE, CAPTURED ETERNALLY

With its unique and spellbinding hue, and the way the Hope Diamond seemingly plays endlessly with light, this renowned gem has bewitched the generations. Coloured diamonds are prized for their rarity, uniquity, and charm, and the stunning blue of the Hope Diamond, which is regarded as among the rarest and most sought-after colour of them all, is an unmistakable aspect of its legendary status. 

It is important to remember that gemstones, as with many objects of beauty or works of artistry, depend partly on context and setting when it comes to their beauty and impact. There’s little question about the fact that the Hope Diamond’s current setting in brilliant platinum heightens and intensifies its blue tones. It is arguable that previous settings in gold would have diluted this effect, and uncut and unmounted, the Hope Diamond’s true colour may have been harder to perceive or envisage. Interestingly, Tavernier himself referred to the Hope Diamond’s original colour not as blue, but as ‘un beau violet’, perhaps referring to an aspect of the gem’s uncut hue which was lost with repeated cuts and re-mounts.  

The Hope Diamond is the largest blue diamond in the world, weighing 45.52 carats. Photo credit: Chip Clark, Smithsonian Institution.

MYSTERIES OF THE HOPE DIAMOND

The Hope Diamond has been examined, tested, classified and reclassified by gemologists several times across its long and illustrious history, as its beauty inspired as much chemical and geological curiosity as wonder. The very existence of blue diamonds was, for the longest time, a genuine puzzle for scientists, as the presence of such a colour was difficult to explain. However, the interventions and investigations into the stone have, step by step, revealed many of its secrets, and have greatly furthered the field of gemology and other natural sciences in the process. 

While it was by no means the first thorough investigation into the chemical composition and properties of the Hope Diamond, the 2010 experiments undertaken by the Smithsonian Gemology Institute were, to date, the most revealing and enlightening. Via a thorough study, experts were able to identify the range of elements within the diamond for the very first time. The Hope Diamond was found to contain the pigment-giving element of boron; the cause of its glorious blue tones. Curiously, the same investigation also found that the diamond featured traces of violet colouration, which, while deemed imperceptible to the human eye, may contribute to the gem’s unique lustre and intriguing overall hue, and which hark back to the ‘beau violet’ of Tavernier’s original assessment. 

Whether viewed through the expert eyes of gemologists in stark laboratories or gazed upon in its permanent home as part of a museum exhibition, the Hope Diamond unfailingly inspires a sense of wonder in its raw beauty, its unadulterated splendour, and its timeless beauty. While this uniquely striking gemstone continues to inform our understanding of the natural world with each mystery revealed, there’s little doubt that no matter how many of the diamond’s secrets are uncovered, the fascination it inspires will remain untarnished forever. 

“Embracing Hope,” designed by Harry Winston for the 50th anniversary of the Hope Diamond. Photo credit: Don Hurlbert, the Smithsonian Institution.  

LA PRAIRIE’S RAW SPLENDOURS

From the magnificent heights of the Swiss Alps to the deepest reaches of the sea, and from far below the Earth’s crust to the banks of mountain streams, La Prairie traverses the globe to find the most extraordinary ingredients to fulfil its quest for timeless beauty. These raw splendours take the form of life-infused caviar, extraordinary white caviar, opulent gold, and eternal platinum, and form the foundations of La Prairie’s most sumptuous offerings. 

Platinum Rare Collection.

 

Splendour, Ingredient, Diamond, Jewellery

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The Secrets of Murano Glass

The Exquisite Alchemy of a Timeless Craft.
19 Apr 2021

The true zeniths of human artistry and creativity have manifested themselves at various points throughout the ages. There is little argument about the fact that, with its combination of alchemical practices, intensely secretive production methods and practices, and striking visual beauty, Murano glass is a superlative example of fine Italian craftsmanship, with an astonishing breadth of history and knowledge forming the foundation of each exquisite item.

While the beauty and skill exhibited by the wonders of Murano glassware are more than enough to warrant its reputation, prestige, and its overall aura of fascination, there is far more to this singular artistic lineage and its treasures than first meets the eye. The story of Murano glass is one confined to a diminutive Venetian island, surrounded by lore and legend, and imbued with alchemical experimentation.

GUARDING THE GLORY OF MURANO

The peerless glassmakers of Murano revelled in their status as alchemists and craftsmen of the highest order, and their work was considered an unrivalled treasure of the Venetian Republic. Fuelling the fires of intrigue surrounding their truly unique wares, rumours arose regarding the artisans of Murano and the practices they undertook. Perhaps the most enduring of these was the claim that glassmakers faced severe penalties were they ever to leave the island, for fear that their knowledge be spread further afield. Fascinatingly, this was for a time true. So closely guarded were the secrets of Murano, extreme punitive measures ranging from imprisonment to hard labour and even execution were in place throughout the Middle Ages, awaiting those who risked exposing the island’s enigmas.

Despite being little more than early explorations in the chemical and physical sciences, alchemy was viewed with great suspicion by the wider public, who frequently interpreted the alchemist’s laboratories as centres of witchcraft and darker arts. With its smelting of metals, use of powdered elements, and the resulting dazzling colours seemingly plucked from the earth, the objets d’art of Murano glass were considered at many points in history to have a magical status, most notably the ability to detect and neutralise poison. 

Murano glass designing technique. Photo credit ©Marina Lanotte.

THE CREATION OF MURANO GLASS

Fine, thin, refined and coloured glassware did not originate in 13th century Venice. Such artistry, and the alchemy which bolsters its foundations, would have been brought to the Italian peninsula from Egypt, Mesopotamia, and beyond. However, with medieval and renaissance Venice being a hub of culture, artistry, and trade unlike any the world had seen before, it is perhaps unsurprising that Murano glass garnered such a powerful reputation across the continent.

While many of the alchemical secrets of Murano were lost to time and political instability, surviving items which date back to the 15th century demonstrate the techniques used, and showcase the styles which gained popularity. For example, we know that Murano glassblowers burned quick-melting salts of tin and titanium to create iridescent finishes on their creations, and the famed avventurina wares, which are flecked with gold, were made by including tiny copper crystals in the glass. With the use of powerful furnaces, the Murano glassmakers could experiment with the colours present in metal oxides and use these to create vivid masterpieces. The synergy between scientific understanding and the creation of beauty had never been stronger and was arguably at a zenity hitherto unmatched. 

The 15th and 16th centuries, a feverishly productive era for Venice as a whole, were times of unrivalled innovation for Murano, and saw the perfection of cristallo; the art of creating crystal-clear glass for domestic and decorative usage. The millefiori technique came around the same time, which saw filigree canes of coloured glass bonded to create striking floral patterns. Towards the end of the 16th century, Murano’s alchemists and glassblowers were completely rewriting the rulebook of their craft; glass was being made to resemble marble, and enamelling and diamond engraving vastly expanded decorative possibilities, leading to increased demand and even further artistic experimentation.

A unique synergy between scientific understanding and the creation of beauty in Murano Glass.

REVIVING ANCIENT ALCHEMY IN THE 20th CENTURY

The original Murano glassworks remained a cornerstone of Venetian artisanship and industry for over five hundred years, until the glassworks were eventually closed in the mid 19th century. However, the artistic spirit is rarely suppressed for long. In the 20th century, the legacy of Murano was rekindled and resurrected by a handful of dedicated Venetian glassblowers, each keen to embrace the alchemy of Murano, explore the historical techniques, and immerse themselves in the original practices while building upon them with contemporary knowledge.

While the Murano glassware of the early 20th century was undeniably as impressive as ever in its skilful use of colour, clarity, and thinness, it was being revived amid Art Deco and Art Nouveau’s maelstrom of creativity, as well as alongside the wealth of other new artistic schools of the time, each bursting with innovative idioms and ideas. Murano glass, which continued to rely on historic patterns and renaissance sensibilities, was in danger of becoming something it had never been before: nostalgic. The turn of the 20th century saw much-needed efforts to instil new direction and a formalised system into the island’s output. While a new internal hierarchy led to certain highlights of the era, namely by glassblowers and artisans, it wasn’t until the expansion of the luxury market in the 1980s that Murano glass truly found its voice once more. 

A renewed market in search of uniquity and a sense of heritage, and a keenness to put individual artistry and localised craftsmanship before mass production led to a contemporary boost in Murano glassware. The increased demand resulted in a more artist-driven industry and allowed Murano glassblowers and designers to produce works of greater creativity, more in line with modern tastes, and with a greater emphasis on the unique and bespoke than ever before. 

Murano glass is the result of a millennium of handcrafted tradition, enriched by the intrigue of the unknown. Imbued with mystery, bolstered by mythology, and guarding alchemical secrets of eras past, the treasures of Murano reflect a shared desire to gaze in wonder at objects of beauty; elemental secrets, coloured by an unending human endeavour for perfection.

Murano glass, when craftsmanship becomes art. Photo credit ©Alex Mirzak.

THE EXQUISITE ALCHEMY AT LA PRAIRIE

The art of transformation and formulation at La Prairie is emblematic of the precious Platinum Rare collection. Just as in the case of Murano glass, the process begins with one singular ingredient, subsequently transformed through a meticulous process of pristine craftsmanship. Appreciated for more than its sheer beauty, platinum is both tensile and durable, allowing it to withstand the test of time. 

Artists began to value platinum for its endless malleable possibilities, allowing them to mould this precious metal, sculpt with it, and fashion it into creations that breached the limits of their crafts. Before it can be shaped for casting, platinum must be heated to the astronomical temperature of 1770° Celsius. From there, it can be transformed into an endless array of interpretations, from mirroring liquid to massive, imposing blocks, and from delicate filigree, to infinitesimally fine threads. 

It is this fascinating quality of platinum that prompted La Prairie to develop the Platinum Rare Collection – to reveal, to highlight, and to showcase the inherent, timeless beauty of the skin.

Platinum Rare Collection.

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