The Eye of the Beholder

Friday, September 15, 2017

Lalique was mainly recognized for his glass art creations, but he was also a master jewelry designer for Cartier and Boucheron. His designs often made references to mythological symbols, revealing his fascination with symbolist figures. Some say that Lalique looked to his client and friend, French actress Sarah Bernhardt, as his muse. A closer observation of this pendant quite likely reveals its true inspiration—the serpents, creating the hair of the Medusa, look very much like Bernhardt’s curls, and the profile of the face is strikingly similar to hers as well. Bernhardt, the daughter of a Dutch courtesan, aspired to be a nun, but the Duke of Morny, who was one of her mother’s lovers and 

Napoleon III’s half brother, decided she should be an actress and enrolled her in the Conservatoire de Paris at the age of 16. She then became an international star and was considered a goddess to many. As for Lalique’s Medusa pendant, the truth of its inspiration—and its beauty—lies in the eye of the beholder. —Carol Brodie

Bonhams will hold a fine jewelry auction on September 19 at 580 Madison Avenue, featuring rare works by René Lalique (1860-1945), including an enamel and glass Medusa pendant. The estimated price of the piece is $30,000 to $50,000.

Carol Brodie is a jewelry expert and the host of Rarities Fine Jewelry on HSN. 

Lalique enamel and glass Medusa pendant.


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