Homo Faber’s ‘Discovery and Rediscovery’ section is the place for those wanting to look behind the scenes and solve some of the most astonishing decoration mysteries. We were delighted to learn about the sculpture-like grisaille visuals reproduced on enamel at Vacheron Constantin.
Located in the former San Giorgio Benedictine monastery in the heart of Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini welcomed the first ever Homo Faber between 14-30 September 2018. The outstanding event is organised by the Michelangelo Foundation and it offers a journey through diverse regions of beauty created by Europe’s finest masters. Like a kid in the candy store, we walked around the creative spaces and exhibitions for three days.
Have you seen pictures painted in greyscale that imitate sculptures? The technique is called grisaille (from the French ‘gris’ for grey) and it dates back to the 14th century. One of the first examples are the panels of Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy depicting the seven Vices and seven Virtues. The series standing on both sides of the chapel was completed in 1306. The technique has been widely used on buildings, illuminated manuscripts as well as paintings throughout the centuries from Italy to England and the Netherlands.
For the first edition of Homo Faber Vacheron Constantin brought grisaille into the spotlight by reproducing them on enamel. The Maison has been famous for artistic pieces, created with a number of traditional techniques. Timepieces finished with various enamelling decorative methods have come up on shows (such as this year’s translucent ‘plique-à-jour’ enamel skies surrounding balloons at SIHH), auctions (e.g. the Grand Feu observatory piece at Phillips’ GWA: Five) and exhibitions (like the Voyage et Ornaments in Geneva).
Similarly to the original grisaille, on this enamel only two shades are used: a dark surface as background and a finely ground white powdered enamel for the subject. The white paste ’Blanc de Limoges’ is named after a French city known for its porcelain and enamel art. It consists of an extremely fine powder mixed with oils and designed to highlight subtle colour nuances. It is applied onto the dark foundation with an extremely thin brush. ‘The successive white layers, initially transparent, create grey and white shades. Oven firings are very delicate so as not to burn… and the finished work can be defined as a refined and sophisticated enamel painting, which seems almost three-dimensional.’ – Christian Selmoni Style and Heritage Director of Vacheron Constantin explained to us.
You might recall these ballerinas presented in Venice to us by the craftsman. They are inspired by Edgar Degas’ beloved dancers, which appeared on Vacheron Constantin ’s Métiers d’Art Hommage à l’Art de la Danse series in 2013. The curiosity of these works is that Edgar Degas as one of the greatest figures of Impressionism used all kinds of colours in pastel, paint, pencil, ink, and even wax and never opted for grisaille. Therefore, artists at Vacheron Constantin had to study how Degas’ Impressionist brushstrokes and vivid colours could be transferred on such a monochrome carrier to reproduce the fine movements of the ballerinas.
Homo Faber offers an unparalleled opportunity to companies with rare skills such as Vacheron Constrantin to connect with a curious and demanding audience. ‘Vacheron Constantin is of course extremely proud to be part of the Homo Faber exhibition in Venice.’ – Mr Selmoni noted. ‘Our Maison has a non-stop activity since 1755, and not only our know-how covers technical fields of the finest watchmaking – such as grand complications – but in addition we have a long tradition in the mastery of traditional decorative crafts such as hand-engraving, gem-setting, “guillochage” and obviously enamelling. Vacheron Constantin has maintained and transmitted this particular know-how, from generation to generation. With our presence at the Homo Faber, we are showcasing that our traditional crafts have been a key element of Vacheron Constantin’s mastery of watchmaking art since the 18th century.’
Preserving the antique pieces has also received a greater focus at the company. Les Collectionneurs, a selective collection of restored vintage watches has already been established and offered to collectors for a couple of years now, the brand launched a travelling road show since earlier this year. The certified vintage pieces recently appeared in New York, Singapore and London. Homo Faber’s mission ‘to perpetuate, communicate, and deliver creativity and craftsmanship into the future’ fits perfectly with conserving these timepieces in a great working condition.
‘There is a strong interest in vintage timepieces, and so far we are the first Maison to offer such a selective collection of vintage timepieces, from simple to very complicated, and incorporating both pocket and wrist watches, fully restored and benefiting of a two-years guarantee – such it is the case for modern, contemporary timepieces of Vacheron Constantin’ – says Christian Selmoni, the creator of the concept. ‘In the coming years, we would like to marginally increase the selection of watches, however we want to maintain “Les Collectionneurs” as an exclusive offer of the Maison’s emblematic models of the past, perfectly restored by our master watchmakers. This restoration work asks for the finest craftsmanship and therefore could be certainly be incorporated in an exceptional event such as Homo Faber.’
Come, check out other interesting handmade works with us at Homo Faber…
Photo credits: Vacheron Constantin. Fruzsina Jelen for Loupiosity.com.
The photos were taken at the Homo Faber 2018. All images used for illustrative purposes only. All registered trademarks are property of their respective owners.
All rights reserved.