Overall diam. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm)
9 large pendants: 2 3/4 x 2 1/4 in. (7 x 5.7 cm)
9 small pendants: 1 3/8 x 1 1/4 in. (3.5 x 3.2 cm)
Gift of Lillian Nassau, 1985
Not on view
René-Jules Lalique was born in the Marne region of France. As a young student he showed great artistic promise and his mother guided him toward jewelry making. From 1876 to 1878 he apprenticed with Louis Aucoc, a noted Parisian jeweler. By the 1890s he had opened his own workshop in Paris and become one of the most admired jewelers of the day.
Lalique avoided using precious stones and the conservatively classical settings favored by other leading jewelers of the time. Rather, he combined semiprecious stones with such materials as enamel, horn, ivory, coral, rock crystal, and irregularly shaped Baroque pearls in settings of organic inspiration, frequently accentuated by asymmetrical curves or elaborate flourishes.
He designed this powerfully evocative necklace for his second wife, Augustine-Alice Ledru, around the turn of the century. The repeats of the main motif — an attenuated female nude whose highly stylized curling hair swirls around her head and whose arms sensuously curve down to become a border enclosing enamel-and-gold swans and an oval cabochon amethyst — are separated by pendants set with fire opals mounted in swirling gold tendrils.
Inscription: Signed (on lower edge of three elements): LALIQUE
Augustine-Alice Ledru Lalique, Paris (in 1900); Georges Charbonneaux, Reims (in 1901); Laforêt, Paris; Lillian Nassau, New York (1960s–85; jointly with MMA, 1985–d. 1996; her bequest to MMA)
Paris. Exposition Internationale Universelle. "Exposition Centennale de l'art français (1800–1889)," May–November 1900.
Durham, N. C. Duke University Museum of Art. "From Slave to Siren: The Victorian Woman and her Jewelry From Neoclassic to Art Nouveau," May 1971, no. 165 (lent by Lillian Nassau).
Baltimore. Walters Art Gallery. "Art Nouveau Jewelry by René Lalique," November 19, 1985–January 5, 1986, no. 51.
Richmond. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Art Nouveau Jewelry by René Lalique," January 16–March 16, 1986, no. 51.
Fort Worth. Kimbell Art Museum. "Art Nouveau Jewelry by René Lalique," March 29–June 8, 1986, no. 51.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Art Nouveau Jewelry by René Lalique," June 26–August 18, 1986, no. 51.
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. "Art Nouveau Jewelry by René Lalique," August 28–October 19, 1986, no. 51.
London. Goldsmiths' Company. "The Jewellery of René Lalique," May 28–July 24, 1987, no. 19 (as "Swan Necklace," lent by Lillian Nassau and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
Yokohama Museum of Art. "Treasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century," March 25–June 4, 1989, no. 148.
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Lost Paradise: Symbolist Europe," June 8–October 15, 1995, no. 239.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Recent Acquisitions of Twentieth-Century Design and Architecture," June 29–November 14, 1999, no catalogue.
Yokohama. Sogo Museum of Art. "René Lalique 1860–1945," August 26–October 29, 2000, no. 077 (as "Collier—Femmes-Insectes et cygnes noirs").
Tokyo Metropolitan Tein Art Museum. "René Lalique 1860–1945," November 11, 2000–January 31, 2001, no. 077.
National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. "René Lalique 1860–1945," February 10–April 15, 2001, no. 077.
New York. Forbes Galleries. "Masterpieces of 20th Century French Jewelry from American Collections," September 19–December 31, 2006, unnumbered cat. (p. 32; as "Insect Woman and Black Swans," ca. 1900).
Paris. Musée du Luxembourg. "René Lalique: Exceptional Jewellery 1890–1912," March 7–July 29, 2007, no. 68 (as Necklace—"Insect Women and Black Swans").
New York. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, Smithsonian Institution. "Rococo: The Continuing Curve, 1730–2008," March 7–July 6, 2008, not in catalogue.
Cleveland Museum of Art. "Artistic Luxury: Fabergé Tiffany Lalique," October 19, 2008–January 18, 2009, no. 164 (as "Necklace with Insect Women and Black Swans," ca. 1900).
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. "Artistic Luxury: Fabergé Tiffany Lalique," February 7–May 31, 2009, no. 164.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Highlights from the Modern Design Collection: 1900 to the Present," June 23, 2009–May 1, 2011, no catalogue.
State Museums of the Moscow Kremlin. "The Art of René Lalique," September 21, 2010–January 9, 2011, no. 57.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Highlights from the Modern Design Collection: 1900–Present, Part II," May 23, 2011–July 1, 2012, no catalogue.
Léonce Bénédite. "Le Bijou à L'Exposition Universelle." Art et Décoration 8 (July–December 1900), pp. 65–80.
Fritz Minkus. "Die Juwellierkunst auf der Pariser Weltausstellung." Kunst und Kunsthandwerk 3 (1900), pp. 485–503.
Léon Riotor. "Les Bijoutiers modernes à l'Exposition, Lalique, Colonna, Marcel Bing." L'Art Décoratif 2 (August 1900), pp. 173–79.
L. Jouvance. "Les Bijoux de l'Art Nouveau Bing." Revue de la bijouterie, joaillerie, orfevrerie 1 (1901), pp. 211–17.
Dora Jane Janson. From Slave to Siren: The Victorian Woman and her Jewelry From Neoclassic to Art Nouveau. Exh. cat., Duke University Museum of Art. Durham, N. C., 1971, pp. 78–79, no. 165, colorpl. 19.
Sigrid Barten. René Lalique: Schmuck und Objets d'art, 1890–1910. Monographie und Werkkatalog. Munich, 1977, p. 244, no. 341, ill., as "Collier 'Weibliche Figuren mit schwarzen Schwänen'" in the collection of Lillian Nassau, New York.
Vivienne Becker. The Jewellery of René Lalique. Exh. cat., Goldsmiths' Company. [London], 1987, pp. 46–47, no. 19, ill. (color).
Clare Le Corbeiller inTreasures from The Metropolitan Museum of Art: French Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century. Exh. cat., Yokohama Museum of Art. Tokyo, 1989, p. 187, no. 148, ill.
Tony L. Mortimer. Lalique Jewelry and Glassware. New York, 1989.
Jane Adlin in "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1995–1996." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 54 (Fall 1996), p. 68, ill. (color).
Judith Price. Masterpieces of Twentieth Century French Jewelry from American Collections. Exh. cat., Forbes Galleries, New York. Philadelphia, 2006, pp. 32–33, ill. (color).
Yvonne Brunhammer and Marie-Laure Perrin inRené Lalique: Exceptional Jewellery 1890–1912. Ed. Yvonne Brunhammer. Exh. cat., Musée du Luxembourg. Milan, 2007, p. 134, no. 68, ill. pp. 78 (color detail), 96 (color).
Emmanuel Ducamp inArtistic Luxury: Fabergé Tiffany Lalique. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 2008, pp. 147, 334, no. 164, ill. (color detail).