Fouquet

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Alphonse Fouquet, 1828 - 1911

French jeweller known for its Renaissance revival and Art Nouveau work. In 1839, the firm’s founder, Alphonse Fouquet, entered the jewellery industry at the age of eleven, serving as an apprentice for Parisian jeweller Henri Meusnier. His mistreatment under Meusnier is now infamous. Chronicled in Fouquet’s autobiography, parts of which were reprinted by Henri Vever’s, French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century, the apprenticeship included physical abuse, long work hours (14 to 20 hours a day), low pay, and nearly unbearable living conditions.[1] Fouquet stayed for five years after which he trudged from one low-paying manufacturing job to another. In 1847, he got his big break, winning a position designing jewellery at M. Pinard’s firm—a result of the promising sketches he quickly submitted upon learning there was no work to be had for craftsmen. As it happened, Fouquet was a naturally talented artist, and he quickly distinguished himself from his peers.

Renaissance Revival Bracelet by Alphonse Fouquet.

In 1860, after working for several firms, he opened his own shop. While first producing fine archaeological revival jewellery, Fouquet turned to the Renaissance revival style in the 1870’s and 80’s, creating some of the most stunning examples of revival jewellery from that era. His designs were fantastical, featuring sphinxes, dragons, mermaids, putti, and other mythological characters. Fine chasing, enamelling, and diamonds embellished the pieces. In 1878, when he exhibited his work at Paris’s Universal Exposition, Fouquet won a gold prize for pieces that were described as “absolutely flawless” by fellow jeweller Falize.[2] His later work also prefigured Art Nouveau trends. In particular, he is credited with re-introducing the female form into jewellery, a practice considered “heresy” by some. [3]


Fouquet Abalone Pearl and Plique-á-Jour Enamel Brooch with Chatelaine, 1901. Photo Courtesy of Christie's.

In 1895, Alphonse’s son, Georges Fouquet, assumed control of the business. “A tireless worker,” says Vever, “he was enthralled by all things new, and his search for fresh inspiration was relentless.”[4] By 1898, he was exhibiting jewellery in the Art Nouveau style. Indeed jewellery historians deem the firm’s work during this era second only to that of René Lalique.[5] Its pieces were typically composed of gold and embellished with enamel, opals, horn, pearls, and, sometimes, finely-set diamonds. Naturalistic motifs predominated. Sensuously curvy lines, softly-colored enamels, and subtle textures were used to great effect. A host of celebrated artists were kept on staff during this time, including Alphonse Mucha, Charles Desrosiers, and Etienne Tourette. Mucha’s pieces, in particular, won the firm praise. According to art historian Vivienne Becker, his jewels were,"strange objects, theatrical and unwearable, shoulder and breast pieces, head ornaments draped with chains, with fabulously enamelled plaques Byzantine in flavour and entirely different from the usual run of naturalistic Art Nouveau jewels."[6] One of his most famous pieces was a serpent-motif bracelet habitually worn by actress Sarah Bernhardt. Until 1910, Fouquet continued to produce jewels in the Art Nouveau style. After that, the firm adopted a rather tamer and more abstract style, conducive to Edwardian sensibilities.


Fouquet Art Nouveau Shop Interior Designed by Alphonse Mucha.



Fouquet

Maker's Mark Name/Period Location Specialty

FOUQUET, Maison3.svg
FOUQUET, Maison4.svg
FOUQUET, Maison1.svg
FOUQUET, Maison2.svg

Fouquet
e. c.1852 - 1936
(Alphonse 1828 - 1911)
(Georges 1862 - 1957)
(Jean 1899 - 1961)
Paris
• Founded by Alphones Fouquet.
c.1862-1868
• Specialized
Filigree with stones.
Cameos & Miniatures.
• Mythical beasts such as griffins, chimera and the sphinx.
• Jewelry produced for export worldwide.
1878 World Exhibition
• Strong influences of the ancient world and historic revival.
1878 International Exhibition, Amsterdam
• Convertible necklace/tiaras featuring email en ronde bosse.
1895
• George Took over the firm.
• Registers his mark.
Specialized
Art Nouveau & Art Deco Styles.
• Extensive use of Enamel and Colored Stones.
• Learned the jewelry arts at Rouvenat.
1900 World Exhibition
• Featured jewelry designed by Alphonse Mucha.
• Etienne Tourette was employed as an enameller.
1919
• Son Jean joins the firm, specializing in Art Deco jewels.


Notes

  1. Vever, 838.
  2. Ibid., 863.
  3. Ibid., 864.
  4. Ibid., 1142.
  5. Sataloff, 36.
  6. Cited in Becker, 71.

Sources Consulted

  • Becker, Vivienne, Art Nouveau Jewellery. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1985.
Becker’s discusses Fouqet’s history in more depth than Sataloff does; great photos included.
  • Sataloff, Joseph, Art Nouveau Jewelry: A Practical Guide to Its History and Beauty with Pictures of over 150 Pieces of Jewelry and a Compendium of International Jeweler’s Marks. Bryn Mawr, PA: Dorrance and Co., 1984.
A short account of the firm’s history; a handful of very good photos.
  • Vever, Henri. French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century. Translated by Katherine Purcell. London: Thames & Hudson, 2001 [1906-8].
Very interesting discussions of Alphonse and Georges Fouquet, especially noteworthy for its
inclusion of passages from Alphonse’s autobiography. Not many photos.

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