A Vanity Affair: The Art of Necessaires

Image of A Vanity Affair: L'art du nécessaire
Release Date: 
November 13, 2018
Reviewed by: 

Spoiler alert: if you are a fan of Kay Jewelers or Macy’s fine jewelry department or fascinated with Pandora beads, then this book is absolutely not for you!

A Vanity Affair is a book that can be assessed or classified on so many distinctive and diverse levels. L'art du necessaire literally translates to the art of necessary and then there are many objets de vertus, which translates to objects of virtue; while both terms might be applied to the treasure trove that is contained in this monograph, neither is descriptive enough to befit the pieces. It is difficult to wrap your head around the fact that these pieces were commissioned or created, let alone used by their eventual owners at the time, but all were silent signals of one’s wealth, status, and/or social standing.

This incredibly exquisite tome reflects the collection of a devoted couple whose connoisseurship and wealth amassed some of the most breathtaking collections ever created by the great maisons of Haute Joallier. This reader truly believes that the items photographed in this volume are from an era that might be inconceivable today as they stretch far beyond anything necessary, and the term luxury is a gross understatement of their beauty, technical prowess and craftsmanship.

Each “jewel” from this huge collection, which spans over 200 years, is signed and reflects the immense quality and incomparable beauty that are inherent to each piece and the times in which it was produced. The items themselves are about as much out of sync with today’s way of life as would be an automobile with a crank starter. The difference is that the art, craft, and quality still exist today and are still utilized by the originators of these indescribably exquisite creations, just not for the same purposes and reasons.

Let’s say that no one would be able to justify the above descriptions when speaking of a hand mirror, cigarette case, lighter, lipstick holder, evening bag, or a compact for pressed power, and yet each one is as timeless as they are magnificent in their execution and design. Designers and heritage brands such as Tiffany & Co., Verdura, Cartier, Van Cleef, Belperron, Bulgari, and more contributed to this almost lost world of accessories.

There is a fair amount of text involved here, which certainly offers the reader context, history, and trends of the times. The photography of each object is exquisitely reproduced with accompanying descriptions of each image but what is essential here is that you must read the fine print that speaks to each image.

If you are a fan of the unusual and the almost indescribable beauty of haute joallier then A Vanity Affair: L'art du nécessaire is an absolute must read, something to covet and possess. This is a one-off among the genre as the subject matter may be classified as jewelry but in the form of boxes, minaudières, compacts, and yes objets de vertus unlike anything we are exposed to in these contemporary times.