The story of Noah’s Ark has inspired numerous representations. For distinguished French maison Van Cleef & Arpels the biblical tale influenced L’Arche de Noé, a high jewellery collection of 60 animal pairs—some fused together, others separated and meant to be worn in various ways, as well as three solo creatures that glitter with diamonds, coloured sapphires, fiery opals, and lustrous onyx and turquoise.
Following the debut last September in Paris, Van Cleef & Arpels’ exhibition of its L’Arche de Noé racontée par Van Cleef & Arpels has sailed to New York for its North American journey—mischievous monkeys, graceful swans, galloping horses, exotic birds, and all. Van Cleef & Arpels has been crafting jewellery of nonpareil using the natural world as a theme for over a century. The animal motif adopted geometric forms of art deco in the 1920s; in post-war years birds and their feathers flourished; the ever-present butterfly is the modern-day signature.
Noah’s Ark is, of course, the tale of an Old Testament patriarch who builds an ark to protect himself, his family, and two of every threatened creature during an epic biblical flood, only to ultimately run aground at Mount Ararat. The first two animals to leave the ark were the raven and the dove, sent by Noah to ensure that the waters had truly receded. The animals Van Cleef & Arpels has chosen to interpret are a delightfully diverse bunch.
The high jewellery collection of 60 animal pairs glitters with diamonds, coloured sapphires, fiery opals, and lustrous onyx and turquoise.
“The thing that caught our attention,” recounts Nicolas Bos, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels, was “a painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder [The Entry of the Animals into Noah’s Ark] that was a specific inspiration: the moment when the animals board the ark. What attracted us to the theme was the way it brings a great number and variety of animals together in a single event.”
Van Cleef & Arpels entrusted Robert Wilson, an American set designer famed for his radiant, subtle, and thrilling conceptions, with the scenography to present the collection. And the decision to use just clips “allowed us to depict the animals in two or three dimensions and all in the same scale,” says Bos.
The sweet-faced Koalas clips are set entirely in white diamonds; pink, blue, and mauve sapphires distinguish their noses and eyes. Two onyx penguins face each other in the Pingouins clip, touching the tips of their diamond-fringed flippers, poised upon an ice floe, itself composed of an irregular play of coral cabochons. With the Ânes clip, a pair of embracing donkeys has been realized in diamonds and sapphires with baguette-cut sapphires and spinels for manes. The collection is too vast to go through one-by-one, but suffice to say this is very much Noah’s Ark as told by Van Cleef & Arpels.
The exhibition L’Arche de Noé racontée par Van Cleef & Arpels is on view at Cedar Lake, 547 West 26th Street, New York, from November 3 through 19, 2017.
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