Cloisonné Enamel Bracelet in the Japanese Taste.
Photo Courtesy of Christie’s.
Renowned French jewellery house famous for its cloisonné enameling and Japanese-inspired designs. The firm’s history begins in 1832 when Alexis Falize (1811-1898) began an apprenticeship with Parisian jeweller Mellerio dit Meller.1 An eager pupil, Falize quickly learned all aspects of the trade: manufacturing, chasing, engraving, design, sales, and bookkeeping. Looking to improve his marriage prospects, he left Mellerio in 1835 for Janisset. In 1838, he left Janisset to open up his workshop. “Such were the beginnings,” wrote Henri Vever, “of this highly talented jeweler, whose work as a designer and manufacturer was so significant.”2 Vever credited Falize with revitalizing jewellery and the decorative arts during Napolean III’s reign (1852-1870). His specialty was “artistic” jewellery: jewellery featuring semi-precious gemstones, intricate metal work, and enamelling.
From 1860 to 1865, Falize experimented with enamels and studied with the most talented enamellists of the time. In 1871, he introduced a new method of cloisonné enameling. His work was widely copied and sparked a general interest in the use of brightly colored enamels. Inspiration for his designs was drawn from almost every historical era and many cultures, including those of Persia, India, and Japan.
When Falize retired in 1876, his son Lucien (1839-97) assumed control of the workshops. Having trained with his father for the previous two decades, Lucien was a competent successor—a highly skilled enamellist, goldsmith, and designer. His obsession with eras past (especially the Renaissance) and Japanese art matched, if not surpassed, that of his father. In 1878, Falize won a grand prize for his jewellery as well as a coveted Legion of Honor Cross at Paris’s International Exposition. In 1878, he joined forces with descendants of Bapst, the former French Crown Jewellers, to create jewellery for Paris’s wealthy aristocrats. Until 1892, Bapst et Falize enjoyed great prosperity. Around that time, Falize helped to theorize the burgeoning Art Nouveau movement, contributing articles to Samuel Bing’s monthly journal Le Japon artistique.3“Jewelers, led by Lucien Falize,” says Vivienne Becker, “seized on the simplicity of form, the intensity and clarity of colour of Japanese enamels, and the intriguing effect of mixed metal work…These were the very attributes of Art Nouveau jewels.”4
When Lucien suddenly died in 1897, his sons (André, Jean, and Pierre) continued the business as Falize Frères. They produced beautiful Art Nouveau pieces, winning two grand prizes at Paris’ International Exhibition in 1900.
Natural Freshwater Pearl and Chrysoprase Pendant and Slides, c.Late 19th Century.
Photo Courtesy of Christie’s.
Maker’s Marks and Timeline:
Falize Aine Fils
- Alexis helped develop Cloisonné techniques for jewelry.
- Created Japanese motif enamel medallions, pendants, etc.
- Renaissance Revival Jewelery
- Lucien Worked in Basse-Taille, reviving the technique.
- André – Falize Frères – produced Art Nouveau jewelry.
Alexis Falize 1833-35
- Trained at Mellerio Frères
- Takes over Aristide Joureau-Robin’s workshop.
- Birth of Lucien Falize.
- Registers master mark.
- Never exhibits under his own name.
- Begins to create designs for Boucheron and others.
- Lucien joins the firm.
- Lucien is influenced by the International Exhibition in London and the Japanese items on exhibit there.
- Developed a style of cloisonné which he exhibited at the Paris Exhibition.
- Alexis Falize retires.
- Legion d’Honneur and Grand Prix at the Exposition Universelle
- Partnersihp with Germain Bapst Forming Bapst & Falize.
- Lucien’s son André joins the firm.
- Lucien Falize dies.
- Lucein Falize’s Sons form Falize Frères with André at the helm.
- Alexis Falize Dies.
- Falize Frères win Grand Prix at the Exhibition
- Serbian Crown Jewels
- Becker, Vivienne. Art Nouveau Jewelry. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1985. ISBN 0500280789
- Purcell, Katherine. Falize: A Dynasty of Jewelers. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1999. ISBN 0500019118
- Vever, Henri. French Jewelry of the Nineteenth Century. Translated by Katherine Purcell. London: Thames & Hudson, 2001 [1906-8]. ISBN 0500237840\
- Vever, 526-31
- Ibid., 536
- Ibid., 13, 43
- Becker, 13