With L’Arche de Noé, Van Cleef & Arpels reveals its new interpretation of the bestiary

Marianne Riou

From 3 to 26 September, the famous French high jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels invites you to discover its new collection, L’Arche de Noé (Noah’s Ark). In Place Vendôme, in the very Parisian setting of the Hôtel d’Évreux, the exhibition, staged by Robert Wilson, unveils this new interpretation of the bestiary, a theme that is very dear to the house.


Evocative and sensorial scenography

When we enter the Hôtel d’Évreux exhibition gallery, our first impression is perhaps one of surprise. A square blue-gray room, obviously dark, with a creation in wood suspended at the back seemingly featuring the Ark, and with windows all around the room in which are nesting the creations of the new Van Cleef & Arpels high jewelry collection. Although the theme—a reinterpretation of the animal world—is traditional for the jewelry house, its treatment and staging are less so. The latter was entrusted to the American scenographer and designer Robert Wilson. Between lighting and sound creations, he evokes the “perception” of this flood, transforming his mise en scène into a sensorial experience: sudden darkness, lightening, noise of thunder and of the rain… As for the Ark itself, it is effectively evoked via a miniature and minimalist construction inspired by Inuit art.


The enchanted bestiary of L’Arche de Noé

As always with Van Cleef & Arpels, the universe represented is enchanted and dreamlike and the bestiary sparkles in its entire jeweled splendor. Around 41 animal pairs illustrate the boarding of the Ark, inspired by a work by Flemish painter Jan Bruegel the Elder, The Entry of the Animals Into Noah’s Ark (1613), on show at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Revisiting a founding myth of humanity, evoked in many religions and cultures, Van Cleef & Arpels wished to connect to its positive aspect, namely the preservation of species and a form of earthly paradise.

The compositions that surround the animals are thus marked with softness. They appear in their natural environments or in evocations wholly symbolic of the couple. Semi-precious stones, precious stones and diamonds each play their role in magnifying the creations, the movement, in telling a story and, of course, demonstrating the talent and savoir-faire of the house’s artisans! The creations are extremely diverse and the styles varied. Mischievous, baroque, fantasist or in the purest jewelry tradition, everyone will find something to charm them in these animal pairs.



An important detail is that the animals have been represented on clips, the only support that enabled them to be designed in three dimensions and on the same scale. So we first see a miniature object and a high jewelry creation before perceiving the jewel.

Stop at the white koalas covered in diamonds (rounds and baguettes, onyx for the nose, colored stones for the eyes), hanging onto their branch; the colorful owls, one a delicate green (chrysoprase and diamonds) in full flight, the other, resting, a purplish blue (sugilite). The flamingoes in pink sapphire and coral beak rest on turquoise waters; as for the sublime penguins in onyx and white diamonds, they embrace on ice floes of coral cabochons.

Zebras, mice, monkeys, cockatoos, donkeys, horses, unicorns (2 other fantastic animals, Pegasus and Phoenix, have found their place in this bestiary), lion and lioness, tortoises, parrots and peacocks, etc., all have their specific features and the house’s talented artisans have competed with virtuosity… to bring them to life!


A Biennale away from home

Every two years, during the Biennale des Antiquaires, Paris sees lovers of art work and beautiful objects come together. It’s also a great moment to discover the new high jewelry collections and the big houses compete imaginatively in order to impress the public. With L’Arche de Noé, Van Cleef & Arpels has not missed the opportunity… But it’s an away from home meeting!

From the point of view of jewelry fans, this Biennale des Antiquaires 2016 (from 10 to 18 September) effectively turned out to be somewhat “underwhelming”. The high jewelry houses, usually the stars of the biennale, deserted this 28th edition. So vintage jewels were favored, such as Époque Fine Jewels, and only Boghossian, De Grisogono, Cindy Chao and Nirav Modi, etc., were present at the Grand Palais…

As the biennale is supposed to be held annually from now on, watch this space next year! As for the 2016 collections, you’ll have to go through the doors of Cartier or Chanel on Place Vendôme to discover their creations.

Photo © Van Cleef & Arpels, Marianne Riou/Rubel & Ménasché