High jewellery goes under a botanical lens in a new Paris exhibition, ‘Végétal – L’École de la beauté’. Chaumet has partnered with Beaux-Arts de Paris on the exhibition curated by botanist Marc Jeanson, who explores the life of plants through an eclectic collection encompassing painting, sculpture, textiles, photography, furniture, and jewellery from Chaumet and other houses.

The collaboration was a natural one for Chaumet, whose fascination with natural themes can be traced back to loyal patron Empress Joséphine, who was passionate about the natural sciences.

tiara shown at Chaumet exhibition
Pansy flowers tiara, Jean-Baptiste Fossin (1786-1848), circa 1850

‘This all started with the theme of nature and plants, which echoes a quote from Marie-Étienne Nitot, the maison’s founder: “I am a naturalist jeweller”,’ says Chaumet CEO Jean Marc Mansvelt. ‘From the outset, this line has established nature’s centrality to Chaumet. So obviously we wanted to talk about it.’

In Chaumet’s practice of considering multiple perspectives and taking inspiration from other worlds in its jewellery, Mansvelt saw parallels with a botanist observing nature. ‘We had this idea of the maison resonating with other disciplines, since jewellery is closely connected to other forms of artistic creation. This is how the exhibition format came about. Talking about Chaumet and art in all its forms, highlighting how many artists have always shared the same desire to contemplate plants with the eyes of a botanist in a manner that is simultaneously humble, meticulous and intimate, creating highly different work that is yet always rooted in observation. What attracted us is that it will offer a different look. We open our eyes by offering other artistic disciplines, we create new dialogues. We cross the periods.’

sketches of botanically inspired jewellery
Branches and bodice ornaments

Chaumet delves deep into its heritage for the exhibition, which presents the jewellery alongside species depicted in Chaumet’s high jewellery forms. Eschewing a chronological categorisation, the exhibition places plants in their natural contexts, from the forest to the reed bed and wheat field.

‘By proposing to learn how to look anew at nature and plant species in the manner of a botanist – by which I mean not as a landscape but as a sum of disparate elements – and by examining the relationship of man to nature, our exhibition is a valuable addition to the current questioning that is central in our society,’ Mansvelt adds. ‘With [this exhibition], the maison is illuminating the challenges we face today, but in its own way: not in a militant, protest or political dimension, but through art and the dimension of beauty, through the role and the contribution of artistic creation to the questions that drive humanity. We are encouraging the world to be guided a little more by emotion and sensitivity.’

Chaumet necklace featuring bunches of grapes
Bunch of grapes necklace, Jean-Valentin Morel (1794-1860), circa 1850

Mansvelt hopes this marks a move away from the traditionally chronological exhibitions and towards a more considered perspective. ‘We’re showing that we have always dared to think outside the box, that we are not totally bound by convention, without being provocative.

‘By drawing on the incredible collection of Chaumet pieces produced across nearly two and a half centuries, we’re inviting everyone to rediscover that nature is and has always been an inexhaustible source of creation for the maison, as for the greatest artists, including many presented in [the exhibition].’ §

Archive images of necklaces featured in Chaumet exhibition
Necklaces from the archive