An exceptionally rare gem-set Egyptian Revival pendent sautoir, by Van Cleef & Arpels. Estimate CHF440,000 - CHF580,000 ($320,233 - $422,125). Price Realized CHF465,500 ($338,792). Photo Christie's Image Ltfd 1998.
The pendant designed as a pavé-set diamond panel with central seated figure of Maat in domed calibré-cut rubies to the chevron border with lotus flower terminals and gem-set fringe, suspended by a series of twelve shaped rectangular panels, each depicting a falcon, with collet and buckle spacers to the ruby, emerald and diamond winged scarab clasp,December 1924, 75.5 cm., with French assay marks, in a later green leather fitted case. Signed by Van Cleef & Arpels, Paris, no. 23336
Note: This sautoir ranks amongst Van Cleef & Arpels' greatest achievements. Of exceptional quality and inspiration, it was one of two similar pieces to be produced. As fine examples of creations from this period become ever rarer, it is unfortunate that the other necklace has disappeared.
Jewellery production in the first quarter of this century, particularly in the years just after the discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb, was marked by a prevailing Egyptomania. Pieces inspired by the pectoral, an ornamental breastplate placed on the chest of the mummies, were executed by both Cartier and Van Cleef. Though Cartier's initial designs are of an earlier date - circa 1910 - preceding the 1922 find and probably more influenced by the 1911 Franco-Egyptian exhibition at the Louvre, they were never quite as ambitious as the present necklace.
Typical of the Egyptian-inspired creations of the time, the motifs and hieroglyphs incorporated into this sautoir were chosen strictly for their decorative value. As an ensemble, they have no meaning. The central image represents the Goddess Maat. According to Egyptologist Regine Schulz in "Egypt: the World of the Pharaohs", "the concept of Maat stood for the principal of the structured world, that is, for order and equilibrium, ethical values and justice, culture and creativity." Accompanying Maat to the right is a hieroglyph representing the ostrich feather. In ancient Egypt, an efficient postal service existed. To identify themselves, the postmen wore ostrich feathers. Thus, the symbol came to mean "bearing good intentions". She is sitting below a circle representing the sun and above the zig-zag hieroglyph for water, which has been inverted. To her left is the symbol for a sceptre. To either side of the pendant are lotuses, symbolising lower Egypt.
The surmount depicts a winged scarab, representative of Khepri, the morning sun. Such objects were placed on the chests of the dead as a symbol of ressurrection. The cartouche shaped-panel surrounding the scarab is reminiscent of those used to write the names of the Kings in hieroglyphs. The falcon, an image repeated in the neckchain, was the protector of royalty in ancient Egypt. It also sometimes represented the God Ra or the supreme embodiment of power.
Christie's. ART DECO JEWELLERY, 17 November 1998. Geneva