CHANEL

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In­spired by

Gabrielle Chanel’s fabled coro­man­del

screens

Chanel’s Mar­i­anne Etchebarne tells Y-Jean Mun-Del­salle how its lat­est high jew­ellery col­lec­tion was in­spired by Gabrielle Chanel’s fabled coro­man­del screens

gabrielle chanel’s ob­ses­sion with an­tique Chi­nese coro­man­del screens is leg­endary. She is be­lieved to have owned 32 of th­ese richly lac­quered red, gold and black fold­ing screens.

In Paris, her op­u­lent apart­ment at 31 Rue Cam­bon — which has been pre­served pretty much as she had left it — housed eight of them, which date from the 17th and 18th cen­turies. They stretched from floor to ceil­ing and were re­flected in­fin­itely in the mir­rors and rock crys­tals that filled the in­te­rior. She em­ployed them in un­con­ven­tional ways, dec­o­rat­ing her walls with them like wall­pa­per or us­ing them to struc­ture her pri­vate space, even to hide doors to keep her guests from leav­ing after din­ner. She re­ar­ranged them from room to room, cut­ting, re­duc­ing, de­tach­ing and trans­form­ing them to suit her tastes, some­times pin­ning pho­to­graphs and draw­ings by her artist-friends to cre­ate a new mood­board and in­te­rior land­scape. “When I look at this screen in the evening, for ex­am­ple,” she re­marked, “I see doors open­ing and knights set­ting off on horse­back.”

Th­ese screens even played the role that ta­pes­tries did in the Mid­dle Ages, ac­com­pa­ny­ing Chanel on her trav­els from her res­i­dences on Av­enue de New-York and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré to her suite at Ho­tel Ritz Paris and her villa in Lau­sanne, thus en­abling her to recre­ate a home ev­ery­where, as she could sur­round her­self with aes­thet­i­cally pleas­ing sto­ries of ex­otic voy­ages, for­eign lands, sail­ing ships, palaces, flow­ers and birds wher­ever she went. “I’m like a snail,” she con­fided. “I carry my house with me… Two Chi­nese screens, books ev­ery­where. I’ve never been able to live in an open house. The first thing I look for are screens.”

Sym­bol­is­ing Chanel’s pas­sion for Chi­nese art, coro­man­del screens were in­tro­duced to her by her English beau, Boy Capel, and she started col­lect­ing them around 1910. “I’ve loved Chi­nese screens since I was 18 years old…I nearly fainted with joy when, en­ter­ing a Chi­nese shop, I saw a coro­man­del for the first time…Screens were the first thing I bought,” she once told au­thor Claude De­lay.

Chanel’s Global Head of Watches & Fine Jew­ellery, Mar­i­anne Etchebarne, dis­closes, “What Made­moi­selle Chanel loved about the coro­man­del screens is their flex­i­bil­ity and also the imag­i­nary uni­verse be­hind the mo­tifs be­cause they are full of de­tails, birds, an­i­mals, land­scapes — a very rich uni­verse.”

After the launch of Made­moi­selle Privé time­pieces in 2012, Chanel has in­cor­po­rated th­ese enig­matic screens into its high jew­ellery de­signs, rein­ter­pret­ing the lac­quered mo­tifs its founder helped pop­u­larise among the fash­ion­able so­ci­ety, to con­ceive a new col­lec­tion that spent two years in the mak­ing. En­com­pass­ing 59 pieces, 24 of which are unique, the Coro­man­del col­lec­tion was pre­sented dur­ing Paris Cou­ture Week in July.

It is di­vided into three themes: Flo­ral, to evoke pe­onies and camel­lias (her favourite flower); an­i­mals, to rep­re­sent the bes­tiary of the coro­man­del pan­els; and min­er­als, to re­flect her pas­sion for gem­stones and crys­tals (she be­lieved in their heal­ing power) and il­lus­trat­ing nat­u­ral land­scapes found on the screens.

The gem­stones used echo the hues of the lac­quers on the coro­man­del: The greens of tsa­vorite garnets and tour­ma­lines on the Evo­ca­tion Flo­rale fourstrand sautoir and a 10.20-

ct Colom­bian emer­ald on the Evo­ca­tion Flo­rale ring; the reds of the 10.25-ct, cush­ion-cut spinel on the Evo­ca­tion Flo­rale ring and 845 ruby beads on the Evo­ca­tion Flo­rale bracelet; the blacks of the shiny lac­quer on the Fleur de Laque ear­rings and watch and spinels on the Flo­rale Calligraphie cuff and ring; and the whites of the moth­erof-pearl on the del­i­cate, openworked Fleur de Nacre ear­rings, bracelet and neck­lace.

In the flo­ral cat­e­gory, a re­versible cuff that in­cor­po­rates the geo­met­ric struc­ture of the screens — with carved onyx and di­a­monds on one side and 723 orangey sap­phires to­talling 50.38cts and di­a­monds on the other — and set with a piv­ot­ing fancy vivid yel­low di­a­mond steals the show. “This one was par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult to de­velop be­cause it is two-sided. The first chal­lenge was to make it very thin, while still of­fer­ing two ways of wear­ing it. The sec­ond was to make it so sup­ple it felt like fab­ric around your wrist,” Etchebarne ex­plains. “It is very in­ter­est­ing be­cause the cuff is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with Made­moi­selle Chanel. She used to wear cuffs, and even a pair of them, which made a real state­ment,” she adds.

Show­cas­ing an amaz­ing num­ber of re­mark­able white di­a­monds is the Evo­ca­tion Flo­rale neck­lace, the most ex­pen­sive piece in the col­lec­tion. It fea­tures 962 round-cut di­a­monds, a mid­dle strand of 44 emer­ald-cut di­a­monds i n i ncreas­ing sizes that cul­mi­nate in a 8.62-ct emer­ald-cut di­a­mond, and five di­a­mond-set pan­els de­pict­ing a camel­lia mo­tif. It was chal­leng­ing to find di­a­monds of the same qual­ity that would achieve a har­mo­nious ra­di­ance. The team took three months to source the cen­tral stone, an­other five to find the other 25 prin­ci­pal emer­ald-cut di­a­monds, and 1,000 hours on craft­ing.

An­other un­for­get­table piece is the Flo­rale Calligraphie watch. It is de­signed with a “cut-and-sewn” ap­pear­ance with frames of black­ened gold, ob­tained through elec­trol­y­sis, to im­i­tate the bor­ders of coro­man­del screens, pro­vid­ing a strik­ing con­trast to the eight Burmese pi­geon’s blood ru­bies, emeralds, or­ange sap­phires and di­a­monds. To­gether, they come to­gether to form a lux­u­ri­ous mod­ern flo­ral gar­den.

In the an­i­mal sec­tion, birds in mo­tion are given pride of place, such as cranes (rep­re­sent­ing longevity and wis­dom), ea­gles (strength), mag­pies (hap­pi­ness) and swal­lows (suc­cess). They fea­ture pol­ished beaks and stones of dif­fer­ent cuts to cre­ate the im­pres­sion of live­li­ness. Mir­ror­ing a scene from one of the screens, a bird that apears primed for flight and sur­rounded by flow­ers, adorns the Précieux Envol neck­lace set with hun­dreds of baguette-cut, mar­quise-cut and round di­a­monds and one 7.09-ct emer­ald-cut di­a­mond pen­dant. Com­ple­ment­ing this neck­lace is a white and fancy yel­low di­a­mond ring with a 13.24-ct pear-cut di­a­mond, and tas­sel ear­rings with 210 brio­lette-cut fancy or­ange di­a­monds that weigh 53.50cts.

A stun­ning se­ries of five one-off Bes­ti­aire d’Asie brooches rounds off the theme. Par­tic­u­larly eye­catch­ing num­bers are a tor­toise

in red jasper, yel­low sap­phires, di­a­monds and a red spinel sus­pended off an In­done­sian gold cul­tured pearl; a wapiti in red jasper, emeralds, sap­phires, di­a­monds and onyx with a tour­ma­line drop; and a horse in di­a­monds and a 17.88-ct cush­ion­cut topaz. “You have dif­fer­ent an­i­mals that you can see on the pan­els, with var­i­ous tech­niques in a com­bi­na­tion of carved stones, hard stones and pre­cious stones, which con­veys the idea of crafts­man­ship,” Etchebarne ex­plains

Un­der the min­eral theme, the Hori­zon Lointain platinum and yel­low gold neck­lace with clouds of mother-of-pearl and 2,250 di­a­monds sur­round­ing a 6.52-ct, oval-cut di­a­mond sug­gests an imag­i­nary coro­man­del land­scape. Fur­ther demon­strat­ing Chanel’s first-time use of lac­quer in haute joail­lerie is the head-turn­ing Vi­bra­tion Min­erale sautoir, ban­gle and ear­rings in yel­low gold, platinum, green and blue lac­quer, Ja­panese cul­tured pearls, mother-of-pearl and di­a­monds, to por­tray moun­tains, gar­dens, trees, waves and clouds.

Etchebarne con­cludes, “The whole col­lec­tion is very con­sis­tent be­cause you can recog­nise t he struc­ture of the coro­man­del panel on ev­ery piece, and in­side the panel, you have a pro­fu­sion of baroque ef­fects and sto­ries, whether it is birds, flow­ers or moun­tains.” And maybe just like Chanel, fans of the Coro­man­del col­lec­tion can now step into their own imag­i­nary uni­verse over­flow­ing with fan­ci­ful tales of far­away lands.

FROM LEFT:GABRIELLE CHANEL’S APART­MENT LO­CATED ABOVE CHANEL’S FLAG­SHIP BOU­TIQUE ON RUE CAM­BON; GABRIELLE CHANEL LOVED CORO­MAN­DEL SCREENS; PRÉCIEUX ENVOL NECK­LACE IN WHITE GOLD AND DI­A­MONDSOP­PO­SITE PAGE: A CORO­MAN­DEL SCREEN GABRIELLE CHANELUSED TO OWN

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: VI­BRA­TION MINÉRALE BRACELET IN YEL­LOW GOLD, PLATINUM, GREEN AND BLUE LAC­QUER, MOTHER-OF-PEARL AND DI­A­MONDS; CALLIGRAPHIE FLO­RALE RING IN WHITE GOLD, DI­A­MONDS, BROWNISH DI­A­MONDS, PINK SAP­PHIRES, BLACK SPINELS AND TSA­VORITE GARNETS; FLEUR DE NACRE EAR­RINGS IN WHITE GOLD, DI­A­MONDS AND MOTHER-OF-PEARL

HORI­ZON LOINTAIN NECK­LACE IN YEL­LOW GOLD, PLATINUM, DI­A­MONDS ANDMOTHER-OF-PEARL

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