Rare Egyptian revival pendant by Wièse in gold, rubies, emeralds and enamel
Rare Egyptian revival pendant by Wièse, depicting typical symbols of Egypt: the goddess Nekhbet with the vulture crown, scarabs, a temple gate, sphinxes, lotus flowers, all decorated with multi-colored enamel and set with carved emeralds and cabochon rubies, mounted in 18 karat gold.
Maker's mark of Louis Wièse.
Paris, circa 1890.
This remarkable Egyptian Revival necklace was made Louis Wièse in the second half of the 19th century, during the time of the great archaeological discoveries in the Nile Valley, the celebrations held for the opening of the Suez Canal in the mid-1860’s and the exhibit of Egyptian treasures at the Exposition Universelle in 1867. Wièse embraced the wealth of new motifs from the ancient world with his use of Egyptian influenced motifs and multi-colored enamels. The workmanship of this necklace reflects the same sensitivity in the rendering of the gold work, as well as the use of colored stone scarabs and other Egyptian themes which serve as an homage to the jewels from antiquity, though never intended to deceive or pass them off as ancient.
The Wièse legacy starts with Jules Wièse (1818-1890), who was a gifted revivalist jeweler born in Berlin. He is seen as one of the top goldsmiths of the neo-Renaissance and neo-Gothic periods. At the age of sixteen, he became apprentice of the German court goldsmith Johann Georg Hossaeur. Soon he moved to Paris, working first for Jean-Valentin Morel before settling in a position with the famous master jeweler François-Désiré Froment-Meurice in 1839, ultimately taking on the role of workshop manager and adopting the name by which we know him today: Jules Wièse. In 1845 he sets up his own workshop at number 7, rue Jean-Pain-Mollet, still working exclusively for his former employer who recognised his invaluable contribution at the 11th Paris Exhibition in 1849 by ensuring that Wièse was awarded a collaborator’s medal.
By the time of the next Paris fair six years later, Wièse was exhibiting under his own name having registered his maker’s mark some years previously. The exposure he gained at this fair won him a significant and widely appreciative audience, including his peers and the judges, who awarded him a First Class medal for his work, commending him on his “excellence as a modeller and inventor”. He continued to produce both jewelry and other items such as mirrors, knives and goblets in the Neo-Renaissance style for many years, winning further medals in Paris and London, and securing various commissions. His work was highly sculptural, often featuring figures which could be either human or mythological in nature, many with a definite Gothic overtone.
Born in 1852 in Paris, Louis Wièse carried on the legacy of his father Jules, establishing himself in a similar way in the world of jewelry. In 1880 he assumed control of the workshop and when Jules died ten years later, Louis registered his own maker’s mark. He continued to produce jewelry in the Revivalist style used by his father but also developed his own variations of the revival themes, producing beautifully crafted goldwork which explored the familiar themes of the Neo-Renaissance and Gothic imagination whilst also looking to religion and archaeology to inspire him. He continued the exemplary reputation for fine craftsmanship that his father had earned during his career. If gems were used he would typically set them using antique-inspired methods and he was also known to use ancient techniques to distress the surface of metal to enhance the ‘aged’ appearance of his jewels. Enamelling was used to introduce color and add another dimension to his pieces. Louis Wièse worked until his death in 1923. He was, according to Vever, “an exceptionally modest and truly talented artist”.
Jewelry by Jules and Louis Wièse is extremely rare and highly sought after by collectors around the world. Examples of Wièse jewelry can be found in major museums worldwide including the British Museum and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.