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IMPERIAL SPLENDOURS

The art of jewellery since the 18th century
Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City, Beijing

Imperial Splendours. The art of jewellery since the 18th century
Under the scientific direction of Henri Loyrette, the exhibition is built around Chaumet’s patrimonial wealth; a unique body of historic jewels, drawings and archives. Imperial Splendours spans the history of the Maison from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 21st and illustrates the uninterrupted transmission of exceptional savoir-faire.
The presentation of the diadem of the 21st century, the result of a creative competition at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, closes the exhibition while opening the doors to the future. During centuries, Chaumet creations have echoed the excellence of the decorative arts, to become a major reference in the history of taste, the Parisian spirit and a certain French art de vivre.

Set in the Palace Museum, Beijing (formerly known as the Forbidden City), the exhibition reveals a timeless heritage, its history, its traditions and creations while defining the contours of a style, language and visual codes that engage in a continuous dialogue with the great artistic movements of the times.

Some 300 works, jewels, paintings, drawings and objets d’art, illustrate Chaumet’s characteristic “art of jewellery”. Prestigious collections and prominent museums have come together to support the event, namely the Musée du Louvre, the Château de Fontainebleau and the Victoria and Albert Museum of London.
Through a selection of works belonging to the Palace Museum, the exhibition offers an exchange between the Chinese and French jewellery arts, imagined around a mutual culture of excellence, to unveil shared inspirations and reciprocal influences.
Access to the exhibition’s virtual tour.
Introduction meridian
Introduction henri
Henri Loyrette
Head of the scientific direction of the exhibition
A member of L’Institut, he was Director of the Musée d’Orsay from 1994 to 2001, then President-Director of the Musée du Louvre from 2001 to 2013. He is head of the scientific direction of the exhibition.
Read the interview
Richard Peduzzi
Scenographer of the exhibition
A scenographer and painter, he designed sets for Patrice Chéreau’s theatre, opera and cinema productions, and created scenography for Luc Bondy. Director of L’École des Arts Décoratifs from 1992 until 2002, then of the Villa Médicis in Rome from 2002 until 2008, he is the author of a great number of museum productions.
Read the interview
Introduction richard
Henri Loyrette : an exhibition on art and history in the Palace Museum, Beijing
You were Director of the Musée d’Orsay, then the Musée du Louvre; how do you approach the history of a Maison like Chaumet after that?
At the Louvre and especially at Orsay, where I was curator as well as director, and from the point of view of a specialist of the 19th century, I have always been interested in the history of the Maisons that, like Chaumet, have played a significant role in the economic and artistic life of our country. At Orsay, I organised an exhibition on the Schneider family, and another on the Wendels, at the Louvre we had an exhibition on Breguet… It is a subject that is part of my conception of history of art and that has always captivated me. Moreover, in the case of Chaumet, what is essential and particularly interesting is its patrimony, a remarkable wealth that we have at our disposal to tell the story of the Maison. For me, the term patrimony includes not only the jewellery and the precious objects kept in the Chaumet museum, the private collections or the major institutions, but also the body of archives, drawings and photographs.
Why the choice of the Palace Museum to exhibit Chaumet?
I realised when I was at the Louvre that there has always been a close link between Chaumet and the museum. Chaumet is a Maison that has, particularly during the Empire period, accompanied the history of France. This imperial legitimacy is a good reason in itself to justify an exhibition in the Palace Museum, who immediately gave a favourable reply to our project request, namely because of the historic dimension, and who judged the selection of works as being worthy of being shown alongside their collections. The display that we conceived in partnership, where French and Chinese creations are placed side by side, illustrates the kinship that exists between our two histories.
What are the challenges of an exhibition in the Palace Museum for an audience that is unfamiliar with Parisian jewellery and the history of France?
Several things are at stake: first, present the history of the Maison, and its relationship with the history of France. Also, illustrate the concept of jewellery’s social role for each period, explain the ways it was worn, tell the stories of Chaumet’s clients and the styles developed by the Maison. In a nutshell, show how Chaumet became apart of the great decorative arts movements of the 19th and 20th centuries. But one must also take into account the emotion sparked by the pieces on view, not only for their beauty but also for their symbolic value. Bonaparte’s consular sword for example is an admirable object in itself, that also says a lot about the history of France and the Empire. I have a great many similar examples and that is one of the defining features, in my opinion, of this exhibition. This is above all an art exhibition, since we admire the beauty of Chaumet’s creations through the lens of history. But it is also a historical exhibition as it illustrates the way the Maison participated in the history of France, and the way it opened up to the rest of the world from the second half of the 19th century, to capture diverse influences and conquer a new clientele.
Richard Peduzzi : when jewels become actors
You have designed sets for the theatre, opera and cinema, where humans live and breathe. How different is it to create a scenography for jewellery pieces, that are motionless by essence?
I created a great number of decors for the theatre and the opera, a little less for the cinema. I always try to design these ephemeral architectures as the silent witnesses of the actor’s art, so that the paper walls I create guide and accompany the story that is unfolding before the eyes of the audience. I have also worked many times for prominent museums and collaborated with art historians in the displaying of classical paintings or contemporary works, of sculptures, rare objects and documents. When I discovered Chaumet’s creations two years ago, I felt an immense emotion. The pieces have never seemed inert to me, I saw them as alive. I was struck by the radiance and beauty of all these extraordinary jewellery pieces that had been created through the ages, by their origins and history. I imagined them moving towards us since the dawn of time. Shivering and trembling on the heads of those who wore them. Jewels transformed into actors.
How did the Chaumet creations inspire you to imagine the scenography of this exhibition?
When I discovered the treasures of the Chaumet collections, their movements, their breathing and trembling, I immediately thought of the Impressionists. Looking closely at the Wheat Sheaf Diadem, I saw the sheaves bending in the wind. It made me think of the leaves on trees fluttering under the painter’s brush, of the soul of Monet or Corot. I had the impression I was under a tree, or standing in the middle of a field imagined by Van Gogh. When observing these treasures, I had the feeling that I was staring at Nature’s deepest secrets. These breath-taking blocks of stone, fashioned by man’s hand to give joy in admiration, to add to life’s pleasures, they represented one of the natural world’s most mysterious aspects.
How did you deal with the task of presenting such small objects in the setting of a Chinese imperial palace?
First of all, I was quite awed by the grandeur and nobility of the location, just as I was for the Louvre, and by the unique story that these rooms represent, as well as the colours, the lacquers and gilt. The human proportion seemed to me to be lost in the immensity. When I discovered the space reserved for us, I saw these huge display windows and once again thought about the theatre stage area and the actors. I think it’s important to repeat my conviction that, in this precise case, the jewels become actors and one must gather them, arrange them, present them in an architecture adapted to their scale so that the audience’s gaze is drawn to them. I wanted to give an overall vision by highlighting the place where the story began, the Place Vendôme, and creating an intimacy where one could come very close to each object. So that we can look upon each creation under the best light, in precious settings corresponding to the changing eras, starting with a classic architectural style and gradually evolving towards something more contemporary and yet romantic: a wave, a sky, a moon, some clouds, a ribbon unravelling towards the future.
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THE DIADEM OF THE 21st CENTURY

The adventure of Chaumet & Central
Saint Martins
On the occasion of the Imperial Splendours. The art of jewellery since the 18th century exhibition, the Maison gave carte blanche to the jewellery students of Central Saint Martins, UAL, to create the diadem of the 21st century. The school, internationally renowned for its illustrious alumni who, as artists and designers, have made their mark on the world, was an obvious choice for Chaumet. The other essential choice was that of the diadem as subject – the emblem of the Maison that has fuelled boundless creativity since the days of the Empress Josephine.

A competition gathering sixty students from two classes – the Bachelor of Arts in Jewellery and Master’s Degree in Jewellery Design – resulted in a finalist group of eight.
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Meeting with history
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Creation and hope
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The last 8
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The final sprint
And the winner is… 21-year-old British student Scott Armstrong and his “Vertiges” diadem.
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Scott Armstrong
Creator of the "Vertiges" diadem
Scott Armstrong, to use his own words, « fell » into jewellery when he was 14, after stopping in front of the window of a jeweller’s in his hometown of Chichester, in the south of England. Soon after, he set up a workbench in the family basement and practised jewellery crafting every weekend for the next four years. After passing his A-levels in mathematics, economy and design, he moved to London to attend the Bachelor of Arts in Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins, UAL, while continuing to work for jewellery designers. Scott answers a few questions here about his adventure with Chaumet. When the new generation claims tradition for itself…
Watch the interview
Scott Armstrong: Generation Y
You are a young English student at the Central Saint Martins, UAL; what does Parisian High Jewellery represent to you?
For me there is no doubt that Parisian High Jewellery sets the benchmark for quality and execution within all of the jewellery created around the world. The history, prestige and exclusivity that resonates from the Place Vendome is inspiring although equally, for young designers such as myself, a bit intimidating.
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Chaumet invited you to design the diadem of the 21st century; what inspired you?
The idea of designing a diadem was something that I had never imagined having the opportunity to do. It was very difficult in the beginning to decide how a diadem would fit within 21st century culture. Historically, diadems have represented nobility, power, beauty and so many other things that are perhaps not accessible or as relevant in the 21st century. I think that a diadem for the 21st century should hold the same values as any diadem made throughout history; it is a very special adornment for an exceptional woman.
What did you discover about Chaumet during this experience?
At the beginning of this project we were fortunate enough to have been given a tour of the archives, museum and Grand Salon. We were shown and told about pieces that belonged to some of the most influential and powerful figures in French history. As my relationship with Chaumet progressed I understood what the Maison represents today. This experience made me discover the incredible talent of the designers, developers and craftsmen who are responsible for the pieces produced by Chaumet. I spent quite some time in particular with Yann, a jeweller only a few years older than me and in charge of the execution of the diadem. We were in contact via WhatsApp agreeing on small amendments to make on the piece while I was in London. This has been a great way of working as it has meant I can still stay in touch with the project without having to be there in person. Chaumet has shown an amazing confidence in a new generation of designers, opening up their archives to young students and allowing the opportunity for one of my designs to be crafted by jewellers with such a high level of expertise.

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From April 10 until July 2,
2017
Wu men Room, Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City, Beijing

No. 4 Jingshanqian Street – Dongcheng District, Beijing 100009 - Through the North Side of Tian’anmen Square

Underground transport: Line 1 Tian’anmen East
Opening hours: From Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm

(tickets will be sold until 4:00 pm and last entrance at 4:10 pm)

The museum is closed on Mondays apart from national holidays
Entrance price: 60 RMB (general entrance ticket giving access to the exhibition et to the rest of the Palace Museum)

Online tickets purchasing on http://gugong.228.com.cn (in chinese only)