Artist-jeweler Jean Schlumberger transformed 20th-century fashion with his sculptural designs for vibrant and whimsical jewelry and accessories inspired by nature. From crafting costume jewelry for designer Elsa Schiaparelli in 1930s Paris to heading his own private salon at New York’s Tiffany & Co. beginning in the 1950s, Schlumberger was known for inventive interpretations of animal and botanical subjects and iconic pieces that came to define mid-century chic. His witty designs for objects ranging from cigarette cases and pill boxes to brooches, necklaces, and bracelets were popular with some of the most celebrated women of the day and are among the highlights of the Rachel Lambert Mellon Collection of Jean Schlumberger at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Music: remix of “Jeux d’eau” by Maurice Ravel, performed by Allison Lovejoy
Through this exhibition of over 140 works, VMFA celebrates the generosity of Rachel Lambert Mellon, a noted horticulturalist, philanthropist, and longtime supporter of the museum. With Mrs. Mellon’s extraordinary gift, VMFA now holds the largest and most comprehensive public collection of jewelry and art objects by this renowned French designer. These works of art—many of which are on public display for the first time—collectively reveal the dedication to perfection and beauty, dazzling imagination, and clarity of vision that united the artist and his great patron.
Schlumberger also designed powder compacts, candlesticks, centerpieces, and clocks, which combined precious and semiprecious stones with enamel and gold in the manner of the Russian master Carl Fabergé. Over the years, Schlumberger’s elegant designs attracted celebrity clients such as Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn, as well as Jacqueline Kennedy and her close friend Rachel Lambert Mellon, a great patron of the designer and VMFA.
The Rachel Lambert Mellon Collection of Jean Schlumberger is organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Curated by Dr. Mitchell Merling, Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the European Art Department, with Kristie Couser, Curatorial Assistant for the Mellon Collection.
Rachel Lambert Mellon (1910–2014) was a dedicated patron of the arts and sciences and a longtime supporter of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. She contributed substantially to VMFA’s permanent collection with her donation of jewelry and objects d’art she collected and commissioned from French jewelry designer Jean Schlumberger. Her husband, Paul Mellon, credited her with inspiring his interest in French art, and together they gave a portion of their collections (including nine rare wax sculptures by Edgar Degas) to the museum, to be installed in the 1985 West Wing, which they also helped to fund. VMFA is honored that the French collection contains works of art representing flowers, gardens, and the French countryside, subjects that were highly meaningful to Mrs. Mellon. Through their historic gifts to the museum, Mr. and Mrs. Mellon transformed VMFA into a center for the display, study, and appreciation of the arts, especially of France.
The exhibition is organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and curated by Dr. Mitchell Merling, Paul Mellon Curator and Head of the European Art Department, with Kristie Couser, Curatorial Assistant for the Mellon Collections.
The list below represents sponsors of The Rachel Lambert Mellon Collection of Jean Schlumberger as of November 2016. For further information about sponsoring this exhibition or making a gift to the VMFA Exhibition Fund, please contact Jayne Shaw, Director of Development, at 804.340.5529
Francena T. Harrison Foundation Trust
Peachtree House Foundation
Mrs. Frances Massey Dulaney
Mrs. Patricia R. St. Clair
1. Flower Pot, Jean Schlumberger, French, 1907 – 1987, 1960, amethyst, emeralds, diamonds, black garnet ore, terracotta and 18-, 20- and 22-karat gold, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon.
2. Jellyfish (La Méduse) (Brooch), 1967, moonstones, diamonds, sapphires, 18 karat gold, platinum, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon.
3. Butterflies (Bracelet), 1956, amethyst, sapphires, turquoise, peridots, yellow diamonds, diamonds, colored stones, 18-karat gold, platinum, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon
4. Rock Crystal Obelisk, Jean Schlumberger, French, 1907 – 1987, 1970-71, rock crystal, 18-karat gold, and enamel, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon.
5. Dot Losange Bangles, designed 1960, made late 20th century, Paillonné enamel, 18-karat gold, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon.
6. Jasmine (Breath of Spring) (necklace), Jean Schlumberger, French, 1907 – 1987 (Designer), Tiffany and Company, American, founded 1837 (Manufacturer), 1966, model 1962, 18 karat gold, platinum, colored sapphire and diamond, Collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon.
Jean Schlumberger: Celebrating a Jeweler’s Legacy – The New York Times
Schlumberger jewelry exhibit at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts celebrates collection of Rachel ‘Bunny’ Mellon – Richmond Times-Dispatch
See the Strange, Wildly Imaginative Beauty of Jean Schlumberger’s Jewelry
– W Magazine
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts hosts an exhibition “Bunny” Mellon’s private collection of Schlumberger jewelry—the largest collection to ever go on public display. – Departures
The Groundbreaking Tiffany & Co. Artisan You Need to Know – Robb Report
Bunny Mellon’s Mythic Schlumberger Collection Goes On Display
– The Adventurine
See Bunny Mellon’s 142-Piece Collection of Schlumberger Jewels
– Town & Country
Bejeweled Whimsy: The Genius Of Jean Schlumberger – incollect
The Rachel Lambert Mellon Collection of Jean Schlumberger at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts – artGuide
Out of the Box – Art & Antiques