Line Vautrin, ‘'Gabrielle’ mirror’, ca. 1958, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
Line Vautrin Talosel Mirrors

In the mid-twentieth century, Line Vautrin created extraordinary decorative objects including jewellery, buttons, small containers, umbrella handles, and mirrors using innovative materials and techniques. Vautrin was born in Paris to a family of artisans and her father owned a metal foundry. An independent spirit drove Vautrin to work for herself; she began making and selling jewellery at her father’s shop at an uncharacteristically young age. At the 1937 Paris International Exposition, Vautrin exhibited her jewellery made of gilt bronze, an unconventional choice of medium at the time. Her work was enthusiastically received, and the exposure from the exposition earned her a following. The subsequent war years were, unexpectedly, extremely fruitful for Vautrin. The shortage of precious materials provided an impetus for her to break further from tradition and embrace materials that were available, such as cloth, feathers, and wood. Vautrin’s mission was to inspire Parisian women to revive the quintessential French exuberance for beauty and style despite the wartime gloom (Patrick Mauriès, Line Vautrin: Miroirs, exh. cat., Galerie Chastel Maréchal, Paris, 2004, pp. 28-31). After the war, critical acclaim further encouraged Vautrin’s experimentation with materials and techniques. Around 1953 she began focusing on a new medium that she would eventually coin talosel: a synthetic resin sculpted and encrusted with small mirror fragments. Vautrin devoted over thirty years to perfecting the talosel technique. Within Vautrin’s prolific career, the talosel mirrors are a highlight.

Vautrin’s work defies characterisation, yet a unifying element throughout her œuvre is an interest in historical styles. Vautrin mined the past for inspiration: she looked to an array of periods ranging from antiquity through the eighteenth century and spent time in archaeological museums studying the work of ancient goldsmiths (Patrick Mauriès, ‘Obituary: Line Vautrin’, Independent, 20 April 1997). During the war, she designed sculptural buttons inspired by antiquity. These miniature works of art helped establish her reputation and were so celebrated that in the mid-1940s a journalist called her ‘the queen of buttons’ (Mauriès, Line Vautrin, p. 30). Vautrin’s mirrors from the 1950s and 1960s continued to pay homage to previous eras. A single piece frequently evokes many historical styles, combined and reinterpreted into a novel design. The scintillating ornamentation and hand-wrought appearance of the talosel mirrors are reminiscent of Byzantine mosaics and metal works. The use of mirror fragments in the frames recalls Venetian mirrors from the seventeenth century where a large central mirror pane was bordered with decorative mirror pieces; although convex mirrors had become generally fashionable in home decor in the 1950s, the form of Vautrin’s mirrors often resemble convex mirrors from the Renaissance. In particular, the tab-shaped outline and circular decorations on the Mazarin mirror in lot 61 bear a striking resemblance to the mirror in Jan van Eyck’s renowned Arnolfini Portrait from 1434.

In addition to stylistic features that draw on the past, there are symbolic elements in the talosel mirrors that relate specifically to France’s history. France was a world leader in luxury and fashion since the late seventeenth century, when Louis XIV brought the finest artisans-including Venetian glassmakers-to Paris to work in his royal manufactories. The king’s fixation with mirrors was certainly due to their extremely high value, yet mirrors were also associated with light because of their reflective properties; gaining a monopoly on the production of mirrors and filling his Palace of Versailles with them carried symbolic meaning for the French monarch, who had named himself the Sun King. In 1958, Vautrin said that she had “always been fascinated with suns” (Ibid, p. 33). Considering Vautrin’s devotion to revitalising the French spirit during the war and thereafter, her sun-shaped mirrors might also be interpreted as a patriotic nod to the golden age of French creative dominance.

While Vautrin’s talosel mirrors have roots in history, they were entirely of their time. During World War II, there were vast developments in plastics, and after the war, the new technology was appropriated by the design world. By then, Vautrin was experimenting with mirror fragments and synthetic resin (Ibid). Although today synthetic resins are commonplace, they were at the time associated with scientific advancement, and Vautrin’s use of such an unconventional material in fine handcrafted objects was progressive and modern. The talosel process was meticulous and labour intensive; Vautrin’s vision and ingenuity turned humble materials into spectacular works of art. Tastemakers of the day affirmed the exceptional nature of Vautrin’s work. Ingrid Bergman, Brigitte Bardot, and Yul Brynner purchased her mirrors (Mauriès, Obituary) and Jean Royère used her designs in his interiors (Mauriès, Line Vautrin, p. 34). While synthetic resin and glass are no rarer today than they were sixty years ago, the value of Line Vautrin’s talosel mirrors continues to rise.
Courtesy of Phillips

Patrick Mauriès, Line Vautrin: Miroirs, exh. cat., Galerie Chastel-Maréchal, Paris, 2004, pp. 14, 78-79

Jean-David Botella, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner

About Line Vautrin

French artist, jeweler, and designer Line Vautrin’s costume jewels and sculpted objects defined Parisian Neo-Romantic chic. Made of resin, glass, and bronze, Vautrin’s designs exist outside of traditional definitions of jewelry and call to mind primitive designs and motifs that reference ancient inscribed tables, hieroglyphics, and pictographs. Her work ranged from jewelry to objects such as mirrors, trays, and boxes. Devoted to experimentation, she opened A.D.A.M., the Association for the Development of the Manual Arts, a craft school where she taught metalworking and jewelry making, and also sold some of the raw materials she employed in her own practice, such as mirrors and sheets of Talosel.

French, 1913-1997, Paris, France