The Female Form in Art Nouveau Jewelry

Datei:Alfons Mucha - 1898 - Dance.jpg

Alfons Mucha, 1898

Lady with Fan - Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt
Lady with Fan c. 1918

‘All art is erotic’ – Gustav Klimt

The Art Nouveau Movement (1890-1910) began at a time of great awakening in the attitudes and behaviors of Victorian era people.  Attitudes towards women were transforming rapidly and the early suffrage movements for women were already beginning in England. Women were experiencing more financial and political control and were breaking away from their traditional roles as objects to be repressed, controlled or utilized.  Femininity and sensuality now became core cultural values.  Gentle, flowing and frequently erotic sensibilities were expressed abundantly in art, design, literature and music. ‘The Art Nouveau Movement’, ‘Stile Liberty’, ‘Sezessionstil’, ‘The Aesethic Movement’, ‘The Arts and Crafts Movement’, ‘The Naturalism Movement’ and ‘Jugendstil’, along side the ‘Pre-Raphelites’, are just some of the terms given to or related to this cultural avalanche of beauty and art.

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Work by Rene Lalique.

Jewelery, becoming altogether less structured in every way, was an expressive outlet for this new explosion of creativity. As women became free of the traditional restrictions of previous fashions, widely adopting ‘rational dress’ and looser hair styles, this new liberated female form was given expression in art and was a popular motif in the jewelry of the time. Long, flowing hair was the most commonly found feature as this seemed to be symbolic of all things feminine and carefree. Brooches and pendants were the most common type of jewelry to be decorated with the female form.

Rene Lalique Jewelry Pendant

Pendant, Rene Lalique

The most popular female motif was the face of a young woman in profile, but the female form was expressed in every way, fully nude or loosely clothed.  Sometimes the woman would be presented with birds, flowers and insects; sometimes, as a hybrid creature.  Regardless of the form she took, she would always be shown to be romantic and ethereal, with the sublime beauty and grace that we love about all things Art Nouveau.


Paris, 1901
Georges Van der Straeten
V&A Museum


England, c. 1900-1901
A.C.C. Jahn
Pendant, partially gilded silver, ivory, opal and half-pearls
V&A Museum


England, 1901
A.C.C Jahn
Ring with chased gold and opal
V&A Museum 

Brooch of Leaves and Berries

Lalique, c. 1902, brooch ivory, enamels, gold, opals
Brooch, Lalique

Sources / Further Reading: