In this month’s auction at Horta you can bid, among other treasures, for a unique bracelet by Philippe Wolfers (1858-1929), key figure in Art Nouveau jewellery, or for an Art Deco silver coffee service by his own workshop.
Philippe Wolfers is not only an Art Nouveau master silversmith of the turn of the twentieth century, but also one of the sculptors responsible for the regaining of chryselephantine sculpture. His rediscovery of ivory granted him an immense success in Belgium and abroad. With branches in Düsseldorf, London and Paris, he set trends for thirty years, becoming the perfect example of the continuity between Art Nouveau and Art Deco, as the two items at auction prove.
The bat motif of this sumptuous bracelet is characteristically Art Nouveau. Like Emile Gallé, Philippe Wolfers searches an intimate connection with nature’s mysteries from a non traditional perspective. Bats, for Gallé or Wolfers, may not be symbols of death but evocative of afterlife as animals which live at night. Bats may also represent, thanks to the Japanese influence in Art Nouveau, long life and good fortune. In any event, bats in Art Nouveau remind us of a surrounding mystery, whether we perceive it or not.
The silver coffee service at auction, with its geometric lines and luxury wood, epitomizes the evolution to a more austere design that would later be known as Art Deco. Although curve lines are avoided, the language in Art Deco is not dissimilar to that of Art Nouveau, with its preference for rich materials and its preeminence of harmony. There are no major or minor arts. A coffee table by Wolfers is as elegant as any of his sculptures.