The exhibition Vegetal – The School of Beauty celebrates the timelessness of plants by inviting us to look at nature through the prism of art and beauty. The exhibition curator Mark Jeanson shows man’s view of nature through works of art and jewelry. And some works are stunningly realistic!
Project initiator, the Chaumet house has drawn on its heritage to make its naturalist identity and its botanist view resonate with all the artistic forms that have focused on plants. Here, 400 works offer a stroll through 7,000 years of dialogue between paintings, drawings, gouaches, sculptures, textiles, photographs, furniture and eighty jewelery objects from Chaumet and other houses. An incredible profusion of works and interpretations of the world of plants.
Seventy museums, foundations, galleries and private collectors lent works whose provenance is reasoned with 81.6% of the pieces collected coming from France and 12.69% from Europe.
The exhibition curator, the botanist Marc Jeanson, former
responsible for the Herbarium of the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, now botanical director of the Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, imagined the exhibition as a herbarium made up of the species present in the creations of the Chaumet house.
These jewelry creations cross paths with works by Delacroix, Fantin-Latour, Gustave Caillebotte, Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet, Émile Gallé, Odilon Redon, Otto Dix… passing through photographs by Brassaï, Dora Maar, Mapplethorpe. The occasion of rediscover great female figures like Joséphine who is keen on it a place apart. Faithful to the Chaumet house since 1805, the sovereign, passionate about natural sciences, was recognized for the innovative impetus she instilled in botany and horticulture. Throughout the stroll, the gaze is lost in the cardboard forest of Eva Jospin while the ear captures the sound design imagined by Laurence Equilbey, without imagining for a single moment that this rain that falls with force is the result of an artistic installation.
Free from all chronology, the exhibition is a free stroll: lhe plants presented are grouped within the landscape in which
they live : the cave, the forest, the foreshore, the reedbed, the ager, the hortus, mille-fleurs…These seven natural settings constituting the seven chapters of the course, in the Foch and Melpomene rooms of the Beaux-Arts de Paris.
On the ground floor, the cardboard work of the artist Eva Jospin which welcomes us sets the tone: the route begins in “The forest” where oak, cedar, hazel, laurel, but also ivy, holly, mistletoe and fern are in the spotlight. In this room, there are many Chaumet jewelry pieces including a nickel silver (note: a model) of an ivy tiara from 1890 (with gouache and varnish) as well as a holly leaf brooch also from 1890 in gold, silver, fine pearls and diamonds. These two delicate pieces seem real as their representation is close to the plants found in nature.
In the next section, “Foreshore” (editor’s note: part of the coast located between the extreme limits of the highest and lowest tides), seaweed rubs shoulders with shells and pearls which are all sources of inspiration. A magnificent bayadere necklace in seeds of fine Chaumet pearls rubs shoulders with the superb cyanotypes (note: manual photographic technique activated by sunlight and revealed by water) by English botanist Anna Atkins representing algae.
Special mention for an interesting album of marine plants which also contains samples of fabrics by Augustin Balleydier de Helle.
In the following landscape, “The reed bed”, reeds and water lily flowers are in the spotlight. We will stop in front of a documentary study drawing of bird heads by Jules Fossin dating from 1840 which catches our attention by its delicacy just like this board of water lily flowers. They were stuck in the mummy of Ramses II, under the bandages, and crossed time. Chaumet has launched a call for subscriptions for their restoration.
Upstairs, we discover domesticated nature with cereals such as wheat but also wild carrots, thistles, clovers that we find along the fields, as well as vegetable garden plants. The incredible diadem with ears of wheat by Nitot (1811) is placed next to a suit by the couturier Yves Saint Laurent embroidered with gold wheat while a little further on is a Dior dress adorned with its lily of the valley fetish that we discover.
The room also includes other species – rose, wild rose, orchid, lily, lily of the valley, passionflower, hyacinth, lilac, peony… – that many painters have represented. The bee and the hummingbird are captured in brooches. An oil on canvas painting by Bartolomeo Bimbi, Garofani giganti (two carnations in a carved gilt frame by Vittorio Crosten) captures attention with its intensity.
The last room “Thousand flowers” presents, among others, two paintings by Giuseppe Archimboldo, Spring and Summer. In this exhibition, these are the only examples of paintings featuring a human figure. The 16th century Thousand Flower Tapestry, which concludes the exhibition, has its borders restored; the Chaumet house restoring some thirty works.
Exposure Vegetal – The School of Beauty until September 4, 2022. Palais des Beaux-Arts. 13, Quai Malaquais. 75006 Paris. Wednesday to Sunday from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. by reservation at www.chaumet.com.