From 14 February to 24 June,the Pôle Bijou in Baccarat is hosting a major exhibition on the role of conflict in jewellery making. And the fact that this exhibition is opening on Valentine’s Day is not completely insignificant.
To make war, in all its horror and complexity, a subject of inspiration for jewellery might seem surprising to many people. Certainly because the object is considered to have a happy vocation. And yet, if there is one object that is intimately linked to separation – temporary or permanent – to memory and therefore to love, it is jewellery. It is therefore not surprising that conflicts, whatever they may be, have provided jewellery pieces among other productions. Amongst the most famous are of course the rings made in the trenches by the poilus for their sweethearts who stayed behind at the front. Often presented as a French custom, it is not. All over the world, professional or requisitioned soldiers made objects from the materials at their disposal: bullets, pieces of shells, grenades, etc.
Painting “two French artillery soldiers in the middle of a trench craft activity”, oil on wood, private collection. Photo: Pôle Bijou
Trench rings in aluminium, brass and copper. Made between 1914 and 1918. Private collection. Photo: Pôle Bijou
Originally, the exhibition was intended to focus on the Great War (14-18). This conflict provided numerous testimonies and objects that tell of the horror but also of the resources deployed in the families to keep the link with the soldiers who left for the front lines. We know the brass, copper and even aluminium rings made by the French soldiers, whereas the German soldiers used steel instead, less for jewellery than for everyday objects such as letter openers for example. A large part of the exhibition will thus be devoted to this trench craft, which sometimes even gave rise to a form of trade.
Collection of small German anvils made in the trenches. Private collection. Photo: Pôle Bijou
Small religious bottles made by Bavarian soldiers. Private collection. Private collection. Photo: Pôle Bijou
But beyond the notion of heritage, which is particularly important in Eastern France (and the choice of Baccarat as the location for the exhibition is particularly important when one is familiar with the geography of the area and the consequences of the annexation of Moselle and Alsace), it is also important to see the work of confrontation carried out by the Pôle’s team between contemporary creations and antique jewellery. And thus to understand all the emotional implication that a conflict can have on the life and development of a person.
Identity Tag” ring by Sara Shahak in gold, silver and ruby. Photo: Pôle Bijou
Zeppelin brooch by Andreia Popesco, silver, 2017. Photo: Pôle Bijou
Also, you will have the opportunity to discover the creations of several artists who come from all over the world: Romania, Israel, Belgium, Armenia…etc. I particularly like the work of the Armenian artist Artak Tadevosyan, who recovers and fragments shrapnel “so that dozens of bodies can wear them with joy and pleasure instead of dozens of others being pierced by them if these weapons had exploded”. Finally, sometimes history unexpectedly meets people’s lives. Romanian designer Andreia Popescu focuses her work on the Zeppelin, which she considers – rightly – a symbol of the Great War. The fact that her pieces are exhibited in Baccarat is a real nod to history, as it was only a few kilometres away, in Lunéville, that a German Zeppelin unexpectedly landed, creating a diplomatic incident that could have triggered the war as early as 1913. Later, the first German Zeppelin was shot down at the Col de la Chapelotte in 1914.
Over ring by the artist Giancarlo Montebello, gold and silver. Photo: Pôle Bijou
The exhibition starts in a few days and will last until June 2018. You have a few months to go and discover it, but I strongly invite you. And I wish you, in advance, a nice visit!
See you soon!