Iconic Parisian artisan Jean Schlumberger joined Tiffany & Co. in 1956 and, during his decades-long tenure, reimagined modern American jewelry and created some of the brand’s most enduringly popular designs. On February 10, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts will honor Schlumberger with The Rachel Lambert Mellon Collection of Jean Schlumberger, an extensive exhibit spotlighting 142 designs from the private collection of Rachel Lambert Mellon, a loyal patron of the French-born artist. Comprising brooches, necklaces, earrings, rings, and objets d’art, this exhibit is the largest private collection of Schlumberger designs to ever be brought before the public.
“[Schlumberger] was able to capture nature and boil it down into its very essence,” says Dr. Mitchell Merling, who curated the multi-gallery exhibit. “He was an extraordinary avant-garde artist, and he transformed the language of jewelry in the 20th century.” Eschewing more traditional and stoic styles, Schlumberger infused each of his creations with playful details inspired by nature’s most ephemeral moments—from a dew drop about to fall from a petal to a jellyfish appearing to float weightlessly. Elizabeth Taylor, Vogue editor Diana Vreeland, and socialite Babe Paley were just a few of Schlumberger’s devoted fans.
In addition to seeing dozens of Schlumberger’s designs up close, visitors to this exhibit will also get to examine precious gemstones that inspired his designs, see his detailed drawings, and create design sketches of their own. Among the exhibit’s most memorable pieces are the moonstone Jellyfish brooch, vibrant Butterflies bracelet, and the legendary Jasmine (Breath of Spring) necklace, all of which exemplify Schlumberger’s ability to capture fleeting naturalistic movements using skillfully articulated gems like diamonds and sapphires. “[The exhibit] is meant to show the visitor that jewelry is an experience, it’s not just something you look at it in the window,” says curator Dr. Mitchell Merling. “You live your life through it.”
The exhibit will reportedly become a permanent installation at the VMFA. (vmfa.museum)