In September 2015, the House of Chaumet opened its Pop-up Museum. The museum sits alongside the brand’s store in Place Vendôme, Paris, and invites us to wander both through their rural creations and their history.
The initiative is most appealing. Chaumet, one of the great houses in jewellery and fine jewellery, reveals the wealth of its heritage and its designs in a brand new museum. The idea came from Jean-Marc Mansvelt, who has been CEO of Chaumet International since January 2015. The museum is “pop-up” in name only and judging by its success in the first few weeks, it should find a welcoming audience. The exhibits on offer, which mix old and contemporary works, should be renewed roughly every six months. Installed in Place Vendôme, in the “Arcade” with Chaumet, the Museum is at the heart of the company’s town house, in what was previously the store (1970) that presented the less expensive—but no less creative!—works than the famous fine jewellery pieces that built the reputation of Chaumet.
The first exhibition, Promenade Bucolique, invites us to (re)discover a theme that is close to the heart of Chaumet, Naturalism. The first port of call is the design office where the gouaches and full scale drafts are displayed. The House has nearly 55,000 gouaches, including jewels that have never been made as well as those that have. From the brushes of artists—including some recipients of the Grand Prix de Rome—spring forth plants that you would not expect in fine jewellery: “weeds” such as thistles or eglantine, revealing an unexpected grace! The places thus described are the edges of paths through fields, along which everybody dreams of a… bucolic stroll! Chaumet, which was founded in 1780, chose to represent the simplicity of plants, a living nature, teeming with life, as its aristocratic customers from La Belle Époque had no taste for ostentatious luxury.
The contemporary and older pieces play off and highlight each other. A blue adornment with a bunch of grapes—an example of the Romantic period (1815-1880) — and then pieces from La Belle Époque (1905) are reminiscent of the contemporary Liens collection. A little further on, a bracelet with interlacing ivy leaves, where fine pearls and enamel mix, is offered harmoniously with the bees from the new fine jewellery collection (mandarin garnets, opal, tourmalines, peridots, topazes, yellow sapphires, diamonds or golden pearls)… Periods and lineages blend into one another as you look at them.
On the walls you see photos and drawings that elegantly relate the history of Chaumet. In his time, its founder, master-goldsmith Marie-Étienne Nitot, already set out to keep a record, a trace of this history and the expertise of the craftsmen of the art by which he earned his living. At his side was Joséphine de Beauharnais, the famous muse for the House, who still gives her name to a contemporary collection, set with diamonds and inspired by her tiaras. As early as 1885, a specific photographer was employed to make it possible to immortalize every step in the creation of the pieces—as recalled by a glass negative of the famous wheat sheaf tiara that was worn by the empress at the time. The House of Chaumet was passed from master craftsman to master craftsman, their expertise being valued above all else. Joseph Chaumet took the reins in 1891, continuing and taking to its peak this tradition of tiaras and aigrettes that are still the signature work of the House.
It is unheard of to be able to visit the collections of the heritage of one of the great Houses of fine jewellery in this way and the public has understood the significance and grasped the opportunity. For once there is no need to wait for a large themed exhibition! Leap at the chance and do not be intimidated by the majesty of the surroundings. After the Promenade Bucolique (the Garden), Chaumet will choose to show another of its favorite themes: will it be the Court or the Heart? We shall have to wait until February 2016…
Le Musée Éphémère, Chaumet Boutique
12, place Vendôme, Paris 1st district
“Promenade Bucolique”, from September 14 to January 30, 2016
From 10:30 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday, free, guided tours available on request.