cf. Benton, Tim, ed., et. al. Modern Taste: Art Deco in Paris 1910–1935. Madrid: Fundación Juan March, 2015, p. 357.
Coffin, Sarah, and Stephen Harrison. The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s. New York: Yale Press, 2017, p. 30.
cf. Marcilhac, Félix. Jean Dunand: His Life and Works. New York: Abrams, 1991, after p. 96, pl. 76 & p. 275, no. 678.
cf. Mouillefarine, Laurence, and Évelyne Possémé, eds. Art Deco Jewelry: Modernist Masterworks and their Makers. London: Thames & Hudson, Ltd., 2009, pp, 140–1.
The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum, New York, April 7–August 20, 2017; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, September 23, 2017–January 14, 2018.
A set of two necklaces of similar design is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession no. 2004.28a,b.
A set of five necklaces of similar design is in the collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, accession no. 2002.58.1.1-5.
Jean Dunand was one of the foremost artists of the Art Deco period. In 1904, he opened a studio in Paris, and the following year began creating sculpture, furniture, and metalware. In 1912, he learned to work with lacquer, opening several shops that specialized in creating decorative arts with this material. He began to apply his skill to making jewelry in the mid 1920s. He continued working until his death in 1948.
Jean Dunand was a well-established artist when he started making jewelry around 1924. He had received acclaim for his decorative lacquer panels and furniture and inspired by his close relationship with the milliner Madame Agnès and fashion designer Madeline Vionnet, he turned his exploration of lacquer on decorative art objects to jewelry. L’Officiel de la couture, de la mode de Paris wrote of his new endeavor in November 1926, “To encircle delicate necks and wrists, he has fashioned unusual jewelry in which the exoticism of African-style jewelry is combined with the mathematical imagination of an ingenious artist who is able to be both geometrician and poet. The lacquers come alive on the metal, fixed by a clever technique.”
Dunand is believed to have made his first cuff bracelet in 1925 for Josephine Baker after Madame Agnès introduced them. She often wore his jewelry, as seen in a 1929 photograph by Hoynigen Heune depicting a nude Baker clasping strands of pearls and a scarf to her front while wearing a set of Dunand Giraffe necklaces. Inspired by the elongating neckware of African tribes, the artist recreated the feeling with a series of concentric “Giraffe” necklaces decorated with geometric patterns of colored lacquer on Oréum, an alloy the artist favored.
The Giraffe necklaces are Dunand’s most coveted pieces and were worn by famously stylish women singularly, or in various configurations of bracelets and necklaces. Just as desirable today, examples have recently entered the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. This rare set of iconic Giraffe jewelry would be an important addition to any collection.