A SUPERB ART NOUVEAU OPAL, PLIQUE A JOUR ENAMEL, GOLD AND HEARTWOOD BOX
The sculpted purple heartwood box inlaid with gold wirework, the opalescent plique à jour enamel lid decorated with three sculpted gold maidens, two of them holding a cabochon opal in their hands, a blue, green and yellow enamel peacock at their feet, with pastel enamel floral accents, pivoting open to reveal a compartment, mounted in 18K gold, with French hallmarks, circa 1900
During the Art Nouveau period, designers created object d'art that belied their true purposes. The illustrated box, although usable, is really an artistic creation incorporating themes, gemstones and techniques characteristic of the period: three sensuous females, a peacock, an opal as well as the technically difficult plique à jour enameling. The erotic female symbolizes the theme of nature bursting with new life while the peacock, who combines beauty with fantasy, embodies the narcissism of the period. The selection of an opal with its delicate shifting color represents the transience of nature and of female beauty. The gold box has an organic shape and the soft, almost liquid-like texture are both trademarks of fine Art Nouveau pieces. The blue, translucent plique à jour enamel background reiterates tones of the opal and the peacock feathers and brings the entire design into an artistic whole.