Jean Després

1889 – 1980

Jean Després was born in France in 1889. His father, a jewelry shop owner, saw to it that his son followed in his footsteps and pursued an artistic career. By the age of sixteen, Després was apprenticing with a goldsmith and jeweler. He studied design and his aesthetic was influenced by the arts and artists, such as the Cubist Georges Braque. As WWI began, Després found himself working for the government and assigned to constructing airplane parts. This proved to be instrumental in his later style, the utilitarian aspects of machine parts informing his jewelry design.

Després is most well-known for his sophisticated Art Deco designs that incorporate silver, semi-precious stones, and enamel. He developed three specific styles, “bijoux glaces”, “bijoux moteurs”, and “bijoux ceramique”. In the 1940s, he incorporated a heavy link chain called “gormette”, which he often paired with a hammered silver surface, as seen in the present lot. He soon attracted celebrity patrons such as Andy Warhol and Paul Signac, and today, his work can be found in the permanent collections of many museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

I love metal. You have no idea what pleasure it gives me to see the material bend under the anvil and hear it grate in the vice. I tame it, but without breaking it. The idea is to leave all its vitality and suppleness intact.

Jean Després