René Boivin (1864-1917) was one of the most artistic jewelers of the Belle Epoque. He began his career as an apprentice to his brother Victor, a goldsmith who specialized in inlaid metalwork and fabrication of small boxes. From his brother, Boivin learned how to become a goldsmith and engraver; this technical formation would prove to be indispensable to his career as a master jeweler. The firm's archives contain designs for his early work, including drawings for wall clocks, candelabra, perfume bottles, and vases, including a watercolor dated 1897 showing this vase with a different enamel pattern (illustrated here).
The inspiration for Boivin's works came from his passion for history, interest in orientalist design, and practice of collecting and selling antiques. Boivin would often replicate jewels of the Renaissance period. His taste for exotica resulted in many works in the Persian style, which he loosely called 'Japanese.' As an antique dealer, he specialized in gold boxes, nécessaires, perfume flasks, vinaigrettes, charms, and seals--all reflecting his early training in objects of vertu. He also collected more exotic objects, such as kovsh, zarfs set with precious stones, netsuke, inro, and Iranian and Turkish ceramics.
Boivin's bohemian lifestyle played a role in his taste and his designs. In 1893 he married Jeanne Poiret, sister of the famous couturier, and together they staged legendary parties with the artistic avant-garde, including the Russian ballet troupe and the leading intellectuals in Paris. His many clients in this world earned him the appellation "jeweler of the intelligentsia."
(See Françoise Cailles, René Boivin: Jeweller, 1994)
SUPP CAPTION: Design for a vase, René Boivin, 1897, Boivin Archives