By Ashley Davis
Jasmine “Breath of Spring” Necklace, 1966 (model 1962) by Jean Schlumberger (Photo by David Stover © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
Richmond, Va.-- Rachel “Bunny” Lambert Mellon’s vast collection of Jean Schlumberger jewelry is currently on view at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

Schlumberger is one of last century’s pre-eminent jewelry designers. Born in Paris, he lived from 1907 to 1987.

He rose to prominence making costume jewelry for Elsa Schiaparelli in Paris in the 1930s. In the 1950s, Schlumberger headed to New York where he ran his own salon at Tiffany & Co.

20170307 Schlumberger2Birds, 1964, Jean Schlumberger, enamel, lacquer, rubies, turquoise, 18-karat gold. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon (Photo by Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Object © The Estate of Jean Schlumberger)

He was known for his fantastical, nature-inspired designs that were both highly sculptural and fastidiously intricate.

A total of 142 pieces of Schlumberger’s work are on display at the exhibition, titled “The Rachel Lambert Mellon Collection of Jean Schlumberger.”

Mellon, whom VMFA Director Alex Nyerges called “one of the most generous donors in our history,” was a prominent philanthropist, with homes throughout the eastern United States, including an estate in Virginia where she died in 2014.

Though much of her vast jewelry collection was sold at Sotheby’s that same year, she bequeathed her Schlumberger collection to the museum.

Mellon’s primary passion was horticulture, which perhaps explains her affinity for Schlumberger’s botanical and animal jewelry, and his art objects.

Nyerges explained: “These extraordinary works--with their vibrant colors, exquisite craftsmanship, and natural inspirations--showcase Schlumberger’s dazzling imagination and clarity of vision.”

The VMFA’s Mellon collection of Schlumberger works is the largest in the world.

20170307 Schlumberger3Jellyfish (La Méduse) brooch, 1967, Jean Schlumberger, Tiffany & Co., 18-karat gold, platinum, moonstone, diamond, sapphire. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; collection of Mrs. Paul Mellon (Photo by Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)

Mellon, along with husband Paul Mellon, were longtime supporters of the VMFA, and donated their collections of French, British and American art to the VMFA in the past, including works by Degas, Monet and Bonnard. All are housed in a special wing of the museum.

The Schlumberger exhibition was curated by Mitchell Merling, VMFA’s Paul Mellon Curator and head of the Department of European Art, and Kristie Couser, curatorial associate for the Mellon Collections.

“The works of art that debut here collectively reveal the dedication to perfection and beauty that united the artist and his great friend and patron,” said Merling.

Opened last month, the exhibition will be on view through June 18. Admission is free.

For more information, visit the VMFA website.

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