Friday, February 8, 2013

Gifts of Grandeur: Gendarme et Voleur Belt Buckle, 1946

Gendarme et Voleur
Belt Buckle
Gilt Bronze
Line Vautrin, 1946
This and all related images:
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The name of this bronze belt buckle, Gendarme et Voleur (policeman and thief) refers to the Guignol (the French equivalent to the Punch and Judy show). Here depicted is specific scene from the Guignol--a mustachioed policeman in his helmet, chasing a thief. The thief, as they often were, is shown with a knife. The excitement of the chase is reinforced by relief figures of two dogs which “jump” over the central rings and the elongated limbs of the figures.

This unusual buckle is the work of Line Vautrin, a prominent and celebrated Parisian fashion designer. Vautrin began her career at the age of thirteen, making costume jewelry which she sold through her father's ironmongery business. 

Later, she was briefly hired by the fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli, becoming independent in 1933 when she began to craft her own jewelry from gilt bronze. In 1937, at the ‘L’Exposition universelle’ in Paris, she had a successful showing and, subsequently opened a string of boutiques.

Her use of gilt bronze made her quite popular (and profitable) during war time when a decided lack of precious materials caused considerable problems from most jewelers. Today, she is remembered for her wit and the charm she brought to all of her designs. 

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