Surrealism—the 1920s-era artistic movement that melds elements from real life with visions inspired by dreams and the unconscious mind—is having a moment in jewelry design.
And many would say that’s due to the successful revival of the House of Schiaparelli under the artful direction of Daniel Roseberry. Roseberry, a former design director for fashion brand Thom Browne, was tapped to reinvent Schiaparelli in 2019, and has made jewelry and metal accessories a focal point of his designs at the fabled Place Vendôme atelier.
Bright gold, oversized jewels, metal clothing elements (including a metal spine Zendaya wore last year), and handbags incorporating human features including ears, eyes, and noses are now mainstays in the collection. And they’re red carpet cat nip for top stylists who are no doubt thrilled to break out of the pretty-but-tame diamond necklace/earrings mold. Just this week, music artist Doja Cat donned an eye-popping Schiaparelli ensemble featuring ear earrings (see photo below) to this week’s Billboard Music Awards.
Roseberry’s direction picks up where maison founder Elsa Schiaparelli left off. The iconic designer collaborated with a young Salvador Dali in the 1930s on her fashion and accessories. Those tête-à-têtes gave the world the shoe hat and skeleton dress, among other glamorous oddities. With the house’s revival and critical and commercial success, Roseberry’s forged a path forward for a Surrealist revival in jewelry, which we’re guessing is just getting started.
Christie’s is certainly in step with the trend (which is also white hot in fashion and interiors). The auction house is presenting a major private collection of Surrealism art and jewelry May 14 entitled The Surrealist World of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs. The splashy sale will feature iconic and rare lots from Surrealist artists such as Man Ray, Max Ernst, and Rene Magritte.
Surrealist-lover Rosalind was a maverick female fashion executive for Macy’s for 24 years, and her husband Melvin was an executive at Bloomingdale’s who eventually became the chairman and chief executive of Saks Fifth Avenue. On buying trips to Europe in the 1950s, the couple discovered, befriended, and bought art from emerging Dada and Surrealist artists.
Rosalind was keen to acquire pieces at the intersection of fashion and art, and in time amassed a jewelry collection filled with pieces by Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, Ernst, Roy Lichtenstein, Niki de Saint Phalle, and Noma Copley, who would become her daughter Peggy’s godmother.
Several modern jewelry designers have become enamored with Surrealism and have been deploying its aesthetics in their work.
Paris-based jeweler Lydia Courteille favors Magritte, Ernst, and Dali, and created a Surrealism collection in 2008 inspired by Ernst and Dali. “I found a way to interpret them on my own and returned it to the source,” she says. “It’s not enough to simply put legs on a vase; it has to have significance to you,” The collection still resonates today as clients gravitate towards pieces with lips or eyes, while editors have fawned over a pair of Egyptian eye cuffs and a pair of earrings depicting trees.
More recently, Italian jewelry designer Francesca Villa’s work reflects Surrealist inspiration. In her Close Encounters collection, Villa creates fantastical worlds in miniature tableaus that meld real-life experiences into dream-like scenarios. London-based jewelry designer Anissa Kermiche has also been experimenting with Surrealism; her current collection showcases artful torsos and eyes. —Roxanne Robinson
Schiaparelli Anatomy earrings in gilded brass with crystal
Francesca Villa 18k gold, rock crystal, titanium, and sapphire Whales at Wonderland necklace
Sylva & Cie turquoise, tiger eye, onyx, and diamond Eye necklace.
Sauer 18k yellow gold champagne quartz and diamonds’ Brinco Legs earrings
Grainne Morton 18k gold-plated silver Face earrings with chalcedony, coral, glass, lapis, opal, rainbow moonstone and vintage rhinestone
Man Ray’s La Jolie necklace is part of Christie’s The Surrealist World of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs auction (courtesy Christie’s)
Man Ray’s The Oculist pin part of Christie’s The Surrealist World of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs auction (courtesy Christie’s)
Top photo: Norma Copley’s gold Cold Button cuff is part of Christie’s The Surrealist World of Rosalind Gersten Jacobs and Melvin Jacobs auction (courtesy Christie’s)
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