• France, c. 1898–9 
  • Gold and enamel 
  • Inv. 1216

‘Serpents’ corsage ornament

René Lalique

This corsage ornament is one of the paradigms of René Lalique’s jewellery production, not only for the mastery of its execution, as for the theme chosen. Reptiles were a source of inspiration to which Lalique returned throughout his life not only for jewellery, but also for his glass, bronzes, etc.

The corsage ornament is made up of nine serpents entwined to form a knot from which the bodies of the other eight fall in a cascade, the ninth rising in the centre, at the top of the jewel. The reptiles, in the attack position, have their mouths open from which strings of pearls were hung as was apparently the case with a similar corsage ornament (the whereabouts of which are unknown), which was highlighted at the 1900 Paris Exposition and reproduced in a publication of the period. The present piece is thus probably the only one in existence. 

Acquired by Calouste Gulbenkian from René Lalique, February 1908.

H. 21 cm; W. 14.3 cm 

Barten 1977

Sigrid Barten, René Lalique. Schmuck und Objets d’art, 1890-1910. Munich: Prestel-Verlag, 1977, p. 392, no. 947.

Becker 1985

Vivienne Becker, Art Nouveau Jewellery. London: Thames & Hudson, 1985, pl. 59.

Shuker 1995

Karl Shuker, Dragons. A Natural History. London: Simon & Schuster, 1995, p. 106.

Nissenson and Jonas 1995

Marilyn Nissenson and Susan Jonas, Snake Charm. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1995, pp. 112, 114–15.

Goffen 1995

Rona Goffen (ed.), Museums Discovered. The Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Fort Lauderdale, Florida: Woodbine Books, 1995, p. 155.

Ferreira 1997

Maria Teresa Gomes Ferreira, Lalique. Jóias. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 1997, pp. 240–1, no. 65.

New York 1999

Katharine Baetjer and James David Draper (eds.), 'Only the Best'. Masterpieces of the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, exhibition catalogue. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999, pp. 150–1, no. 72.

Lisbon 2001

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2001, p. 172, cat. 148.

Lisbon 2011

Calouste Gulbenkian Museum. Lisbon: Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, 2011, p. 195, cat. 174.