This splendid enamel orchid brooch is signed by L. Gautrait with the marker's mark for Léon Gariod, whom Gautrait worked with in the late 1800s. While little is known about Gautrait, the maker's mark was registered in 1884 and we can therefore surmise that the brooch dates after this. From 1880 to 1890 flower motifs reached a height of popularity. The decade of naturalism, which predated the Art Nouveau movement, aimed for true form and detail, as can be seen with this orchid.
Tiffany & Co. impressed all of Paris with their exhibition of twenty-five orchid brooches in the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. The were hung above the other gems in the display, hence the viewer initially mistook them for real orchids. This innovative exhibit was awared a gold medal, and Paulding Farnham, the designer of the orchid brooches, took home a silver medal. In 1927, "The Jeweller's Circular and Horological Review" remembered the 1889 Exposition and stated that "French bijuotiers did not hesitate to acknowledge that in certain details of their craft they owed a debt to their Transatlantic brethren.They visited the American section in great numbers, not merely to gratify their curiosity, but for the purpose of study".This orchid by Gautrait is a most likely result of such study and a highly successful one.