Bijoux Parisiens: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais, Paris

Exhibition produced by the Petit Palais, City of Paris Fine Art Museum, Paris Musées, in association with the Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN and Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE.

Throughout history, jewelry has served both functional and decorative purposes, reflecting not only the patron’s particular values and interests, but also the social, political, and economic circumstances of the time and place of its creation. In France, Paris has long been considered a center of innovation in fashion, the visual arts, and jewelry production. Bijoux Parisiens: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais, Paris charts the course of jewelry design in France over four centuries, tracking the country’s evolving jewelry aesthetic as it responded to historical events and art historical movements. The exhibition also tells the story of dozens of talented artists, designers, and entrepreneurs, who created extraordinary works of art using the most precious materials on earth. Drawn from the exceptional holdings of the Petit Palais, Paris, with generous contributions from lenders, the exhibition features nearly seventy pieces of fine jewelry and objet d’art, over one hundred technical and creative design drawings, and numerous fashion prints that demonstrate the relationship between jewelry and fashion. A unique experience at Joslyn, Bijoux Parisiens offers an impressive platform for discovering the history of French taste and the enduring elegance of Paris.

The objects presented in Bijoux Parisiens reveal the wealth and social fabric of France as the country’s shifting tastes and ever-changing political situations, from the reign of Louis XIV (r. 1643–1715) to World War II, impacted how jewelry was worn and by whom. Necklaces, pendants, bracelets, and brooches made with precious and semi-precious materials like platinum, gold, diamonds, and gemstones reflect both the wearer’s position in society and the designer’s creativity and skill. Many artistic styles are shown together, including the severe aesthetic of Neoclassicism, the natural forms of Art Nouveau, and the sleek, geometric lines of Art Deco, demonstrating how Parisian preferences changed over time. Design drawings also show the endless imagination of artists and entrepreneurs, who first designed for the aristocracy and later for the famous jewelry maisons of Paris; Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels, among others, remain international brands with lasting appeal to this day. Expressing the age in which they were made, the unique and compelling objects in Bijoux Parisiens: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais, Paris will delight the senses and inspire the imagination.

Jewelry can express personal values as well as status and wealth.
When Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor in 1804, he consciously linked his regime to cultures of the ancient past that recalled the heroic and civic virtues of Greece and Rome. His fondness for cameos resulted in high demand among fashionable Parisians, to the point that jewelers began replicating the small carved hardstones in enamel.

Designers produced thousands of drawings to test ideas, but not all of them were made into jewelry.
Jewelry houses, or maisons, like Cartier (established in 1847) employed many talented designers to create jewelry for the company. Designs like this helped to determine the size, structure, and materials that might be used in the final product. In this drawing, the round white portion represents carved rock crystal while the blue squares signify diamonds.

What's pictured: (left) Artist Unknown, Paris, Neoclassical Necklace, ca. 1800, gold and enamel; Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, PPO 03786; © Petit Palais / Roger-Viollet

Although luxurious, jewelry can also be economical.
The French monarchy returned after the defeat of Napoleon I in 1814, but a weakened financial situation among the aristocracy resulted in a cautious attitude toward showy ornamentation. Instead of costly gems like diamonds, courtiers preferred semi-precious stones, such as amethysts and tourmalines. This parure, or jewelry set, features stretched and woven gold for the setting, providing maximum effect for minimum expense.

Artistic styles used in painting, prints, and architecture were also found in jewelry design.
In the spirit of innovation, artists looked to nature for inspiration and created a new style called Art Nouveau (“new art”). Instead of copying objects directly from nature, artists reinterpreted natural forms like plant life and insects in abstract ways. One of the masters of this style was René Lalique (1860–1945), whose designs played with line, color, and transparency.

Fashion plates and advertisements informed buyers about the latest jewelry styles and where to get them.
Advertisements in Parisian magazines showcased current fashion trends and the stylish jewelry to wear with popular clothing. This fashion plate (above right) shows a woman trying to decide which of her Van Cleef & Arpels jewelry to wear for the evening.

Jewelry designers often looked to the world around them for inspiration.
This turquoise and diamond studded bracelet (left) imitates the verticality and decorative flamboyance of France’s Gothic cathedrals, reflecting a revival of interest in France’s medieval past that began in Paris around 1825 with the opening of the Museé de Cluny, a repository of spectacular medieval objects. The restoration of Gothic churches around the 1840s also added to the fascination.

What's pictured: (above right) Edward Halouze (dates unknown), Advertisement for Van Cleef & Arpels, 1920, Gazette du bon ton, color lithograph on paper, Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, LDUT 01255; © Petit Palais / Roger-Viollet; (below right) Artist Unknown, France, Amethyst Parure, 1820–30, amethysts and gold; Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, ODUT 01955; © Petit Palais / Roger-Viollet; (left) Lucien Falize (1839–1897), Gothic Bracelet, ca. 1880, gold, diamonds, turquoise, Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, ODUT 01865; © Petit Palais / Roger-Viollet

Hours, Tickets, & Tours

Bijoux Parisiens is open during all regular Museum hours: Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm; late 'til 8 pm on Thursday. Closed Mondays and major holidays.

Bijoux Parisiens is a ticketed exhibition:
General public adults: $10
(Thursday evening pricing, 4-8 pm: $5 for general public adults)
Youth ages 17 and younger: Free
College students with ID: Free
Joslyn Members: Free (Not a member? Click here to join now!)

All visitors, including members, must obtain a ticket for entrance to the exhibition (no reservations necessary).

Programs with visits to the exhibition will be priced accordingly for general public adults. Docent-guided tours of the exhibition are offered on select days. Check the calendar of events for exact tour dates. Bijoux Parisiens ticket pricing applies.

Mobile Bijoux Parisiens

Free Wi-Fi is available in all Joslyn galleries. Bring your web-enabled mobile device or borrow one of ours to access the dual language Bijoux Parisiens mobile tour. Presented by Joslyn and OnCell. Call (402) 881-3601 to access the tour in English; (402) 972-4031 for the Spanish language tour. Tour access information also available on site and on the Museum's mobile tour page.

The Catalogue
Purchase the Bijoux Parisiens exhibition catalogue in the Hitchcock Museum Shop or online: $54.95 (Member price: $49.46)

Exhibition-Related Events & Programs

Friday, June 2; 5:30–8 pm
Members Preview Reception

Saturday, June 3; 10 am–4 pm
Members Preview Day

Saturday, June 3 @ 6 pm
Joslyn Art Museum Association Gala

Saturday, June 17 @ 1 pm (in English) & 2 pm (in French)
Royalty, Revolution, Republic: French Jewelry & Design presented by Jan Schneider Lund

Thursday, June 29 @ 6:30 pm & 7:15 pm
Curator Gallery Talks: Bijoux Parisiens

Thursday, July 6; 5–7 pm
Omaha Under the Radar

Thursday, July 27 @ 6:30 pm
The Allure of the Past: 100 Years of French Jewelry with Emily Stoehrer, Ph.D., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Thursday, August 17 @ 6:30 pm & 7:15 pm
Curator Gallery Talks: Bijoux Parisiens

Tuesday, August 15 @ 7 pm
Screening: Marie Antoinette in partnership with Film Streams

Friday, August 25 @ 6:30 pm
Bling! Girls Night Out at the Museum

Many regularly scheduled programs will be presented with a nod to Wild Spaces, Open Seasons. Check these listings for details: