The antique Coromandel screens that were found in the various homes of Gabrielle Chanel including her mansions on Avenue de New-York, Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honore in Paris, and her villa in Lausanne, Switzerland. Over her lifetime she amassed a collection of over thirty of these extravagant pieces that served as markers of privacy and upon which she was known to attach photographs and drawings from artist friends.
Gabrielle Chanel lived in a lacquered box where sailing ships, palaces, flowers and birds, in flashes of gold and deep red, stood out against the darkness of the night. This dream landscape held such charm for her that she wished to always keep it with her: it was that of the Coromandel screens.
They also conjure up Marco Polo’s Book of Wonders. His Venetian birthplace, the gateway to the Orient, one of Chanel’s favourite places, which she often visited with her friend Misia and her husband, the extravagant José-Maria Sert – another connoisseur of subtle lacquers, who encouraged Chanel’s taste for the baroque and the opulent.
Still today, when entering Chanel’s apartment at 31 Rue Cambon, it is impossible not to be caught up in the mirage of the décor. The 17th- and 18th- century screens mask doorways, surround the fireplace and sofa, and, reflected in the mirrors and rock crystals, appear to be multiplied to infinity: an imaginary labyrinth that stretches across the oceans and the centuries.
The Chanel Coromandel Collection
In 2018, CHANEL Fine Jewelry presented, for the first time, this collection inspired by the poetic universe of Coromandel with motifs dear to Gabrielle Chanel which were reworked around three themes: floral, noticeably evoking her signature flower, the Camellia; animal, through the bestiary of Coromandel; and mineral, reflecting her love of crystal and gemstones.
The floral theme inspires a cuff that is entirely reversible and reworks the geometric structure of the screens. The cuff includes a yellow diamond that pivots, so as to remain always visible on the wrist.
The mineral theme is inscribed in the “Horizon Lointain” plastron necklace in yellow gold, dotted with clouds of mother-of-pearl and diamond (including one central six-carat diamond) that evoke a Coromandel landscape.
At the heart of the animal theme, birds just about to take flight, just as they appear on the screens, ornament a diamond ring that sparkles with more than ten carats. Finally, the collection’s gems recall all the colours of the Coromandel lacquers: the greens of the Tsavorite garnet, emeralds and the more than thirty-seven-carat tourmaline on the “Vibration Minérale” ring; the red spinel on the “Évocation Florale” ring, and the ruby beads and deep, hypnotic black lacquer transposed onto the onyx.
“The first time I saw a Coromandel screen, I cried out: it’s so beautiful! I had never said that about any other object.” – Gabrielle Chanel
These magical and virtuoso pieces offer, once again, an illustration of the incomparable savoir-faire of the CHANEL Fine Jewelry workshop, and the tireless ingenuity of the Studio of Creation, inspired by the secret and precious universe of Gabrielle Chanel.
- Coleman Pete is a contributor for EcoLuxLuv Communications. Coleman writes about menswear, design, and culture, and can be found combing through vintage clothing racks or reading in one of his favourite cafés in Vancouver's Mount Pleasant neighbourhood. Read more by Coleman at OverdressedNW.com.
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