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Storytelling through Jewels and Photography. Collaboration of Thérèse Bonney and Gérard Sandoz

Article  /  Artists   Essays   Jewellery   History   Fashion
Published: 07.10.2022
Author:
Nora Schmel
Edited by:
Klimt02
Edited at:
Barcelona
Edited on:
2022
France, ca. 1925. Shown on live models' hands at Jean Cocteau's Grand Écart supper club, Paris. Woman's ring in silver, onyx, jasper, and diamonds. Bracelet in white and yellow gold and black enamel. Man's ring in white and yellow gold and steel. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937..
France, ca. 1925. Shown on live models' hands at Jean Cocteau's Grand Écart supper club, Paris. Woman's ring in silver, onyx, jasper, and diamonds. Bracelet in white and yellow gold and black enamel. Man's ring in white and yellow gold and steel. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.

Intro
Alongside our inexhaustible commitment and curiosity about modern artworks and practising artists, we aim to gather and are hoping for more and more insightful and analytical content and reports on the status of contemporary jewellery. However, we can’t give a comprehensive overview of the present condition of this field, unless we look back on some of the forerunners, game-changers and inspirational characters of the past years. Not only the pioneer individuals but the social settings, the environment and the economic climate that influenced how some artworks, in the present case jewels came to light and have been preserved. 
Browsing the Smithsonian Libraries Digital Collections, some alluring black & white photographs of jewellery caught my attention. Evidently, the images were taken decades ago but yet carry a modern, leading-edge charisma. I found that the images are a collective work of Gérard Sandoz designer and Thérèse Bonney, a photographer from the first half of the 1900s. Investigating further, here is what came to light about the fruitful partnership.

The collaboration between the artists, Thérèse Bonney and Gérard Sandoz might seem unlikely, considering that the American photojournalist left her mark on modern society as a war photographer, meanwhile the name Gérard Sandoz most likely takes us to the field of cinema. However, the two artists’ journeys almost inevitably overlapped in 1920-30s Paris. 

Sandoz coming from a well-known French family of clockmakers and jewellers received privileged education in many fields of the arts, including sculpture, interior design, and architecture alongside the expertise of his family business. Ambitious, talented, and living in prosperity, the young Sandoz processed and elaborated the industrial revolution in various art forms. His jewellery pieces notably carry the characteristics of the Art Deco style, referencing the geometric shapes and angles of architecture and machinery. He most often used enamel, Niello and silver combined with onyx and coral appearing in bold designs in his pieces. 

The American Thérèse Bonney observed and approached the modern atmosphere from a contrasting context. After her studies in arts in California, Bonney left the U.S. to continue her education in Paris. Before achieving recognition with her photo essays and social activism during World War II, Bonney explored a more optimistic ambience. Drawn to the French decorative arts, she chose the position of the observer, becoming the eyes of the outsider and providing visual narratives to Americans on the modernist style and the emerging middle class of Europe. While a publicist, Thérèse Bonney also positioned herself as a female entrepreneur in a male-led society.
 
 
France, ca. 1925. Rings and bracelet. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Photographed on live models' hands at Jean Cocteau's Le Grand Écart supper club. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937.

I don’t have the sources to provide information on how the two artists met and even fewer facts about who took the upper hand in the art direction of their collaboration. The dim images and the tender intimacy frozen in staged stillness could very well be the visions of a future filmmaker, however, it could also be seen as the visual translation and storytelling of a foreign spectator. Either way, the jewels are not the protagonists of the photographs, they are representative of the lifestyle and status of the owner. The jewels are the décor, the setting, and the mute voice guiding the viewer, whose imagination is part of the narrative. Sandoz might be brought along the atmosphere of an elite environment and naturally created the scenes from his average night outs. That said, it is equally probable that Thérèse Bonney captured a version of the Parisian nightlife so accurately that it points beyond a staged marketing series for a jewellery campaign.

I allow myself to believe that the truth lies in the fusion of possibilities. As the Smithsonian Libraries online archive states, the majority of the photographs were taken in the Le Grand Ecart still famous Parisian jazz club that opened its doors in the 1920s. A small venue, decorated with Art Deco design. Despite the pomp, perhaps it is not even surprising that the staged glamour echoes a silent and concealed anxiety caused by the second turn of the approaching war.

In appreciation of skillful jewellery and artistic vision, here are some intriguing images of two eminent individuals.
 
Woman's ring and bracelet. Man's ring. France, ca. 1927. Shown on live models' hands at Jean Cocteau's Le Grand Écart supper club, Paris. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937..
Woman's ring and bracelet. Man's ring. France, ca. 1927. Shown on live models' hands at Jean Cocteau's Le Grand Écart supper club, Paris. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
Bracelet and ring. France, ca. 1927. Shown on live model's hand at Jean Cocteau's Grand Écart supper club, Paris. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937..
Bracelet and ring. France, ca. 1927. Shown on live model's hand at Jean Cocteau's Grand Écart supper club, Paris. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
France, ca. 1925. Woman's bracelet and ring in diamonds and red and black enamel. Man's ring in white and yellow gold and steel. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Photographed on live models' hands at Jean Cocteau's Le Grand Écart supper club. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937. .
France, ca. 1925. Woman's bracelet and ring in diamonds and red and black enamel. Man's ring in white and yellow gold and steel. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Photographed on live models' hands at Jean Cocteau's Le Grand Écart supper club. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937. 

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
France, ca. 1925. Shown on live model. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937..
France, ca. 1925. Shown on live model. Gérard Sandoz (b.1902), designer. Therese Bonney photographs, 1925-1937.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
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