The Art of Movement, Van Cleef & Arpels at The Design Museum

For this week's feature we checked out the new The Art of Movement Exhibition. We visited The Design Museum.

Van Cleef & Arpels is a French luxury jewellery company, founded in 1896 by the Dutch diamond-cutter Alfred Van Cleef and his father-in-law Salomon Arpels in Paris. This exhibition illustrates the French High Jewellery Maison's constant quest to convey movement into precious materials.


Van Cleef and Arpels are well known for their unique designs, their three-dimensional volume and their composition. Their artistic journey being split into four themes: Nature Alive, Dance, Elegance and Abstract Movements.


The Sequins necklace, created in 1971, displays a circle of triangle motifs made of gold sequins. Several matching diamond shaped sequins dangle from the hoops connecting them to the rest of the necklace. The composition of sequins on this necklace recalls back to the world of fashion in 1966 to the dresses created by Paco Rabanne. The way the motifs hang on the necklace brings comfort to the wearer, it is meant to feel like second skin. 

The ribbon clip is a double clip: it can be separated and worn on either side of the neckline of a dress. The piece is made of diamonds mounted on platinum, their different cuts emphasize the volume of the piece. The curving lines of the different strands fan out from the central crescent motifs, making for a trompe l'oeil effect in addition to contributing to an impression of suppleness.

The Copeau clip stands out due to its volume and movement. Its stylised and pure design reflects the influence of the modernist movement on the Maison's creative tradition. A ribbons coils around the golden pin creating a coiling effect. The clip has many uses such as being worn on a hat, jacket lapel or blouse.

The Zip necklace is one of the most avant-garde creations in the history of Van  Cleef & Arpels, described as a masterpiece of ingenuity blended with spectacular modern design. The zip necklace has the astonishing ability to transform into a bracelet with a simple pull at the tassel, similar to a zipper. The necklace is composed of gold twill, framed by staggered gold-outlined hearts set with diamonds, the tassel is embellished with braided gold threads. Cleef and Arpels have demonstrated great innovation throughout their jewellery pieces.

The Principle Dancer is one of Van Cleef and Arpels' first pieces, created in 1941. It is an illustration of the ballerina's beauty of line and movement. The sculpted dancer has a pear-shaped diamond face, crowned by a ruby and emerald ornament. The sweeping lines of the ballerina's body draws us to the fan inversely mirroring her headpiece. The different sized diamonds help to effectively capture the depth and volume of the ballerina's tutu.

Inspired by the elegance in addition to the liveliness of a ballerina. The ballerina brooch shows off a ballerina in action. The maison have drawn inspiration from different artistic fields whereby motion is fundamental. The ballerina's first created in 1940 have been seen dancing and performing.

Van and Cleef's pieces are full of detail and intricacy from the colour to the placement. The intricate pieces capture the movement of light and how it can flow freely between the stones.

The Trois Clochettes clip, created in 1964, has novel uses of golden textures which allowed the Maison to render different floral appearances in the 1960s. The asymmetrical clip gives the illusion of flowers swaying in the breeze. The petals feature a blend of smooth and textured gold. The pistils themselves are crowned with rubies and diamonds.

The flora and fauna were the main inspirations of Van Cleef and Arpels' whom adored nature. The bouquets of the late 1930s and 1940s, with their precious and colourful flowers, seem freshly picked. 


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