Line Vautrin, the poetess of metal, beloved by The Row
When Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the twin-sister designers behind cult label The Row, presented their summer collection at an opulent 18th-century hôtel particulier during Paris Fashion Week last month, a few eagle-eyed guests may have spotted two of the models clutching small, gilded bronze minaudières, or wearing a dangling, geometric bracelet.
Many of these objets, engraved with leaf and flower motifs, were in fact rare 1930s pieces by Line Vautrin, the prolific 20th-century French jewellery designer and artist famed for her hand-wrought bijoux, cigarette cases and mirrors. “We have always admired Line Vautrin’s work and came across a rare collection of pieces before our summer collection show in Paris,” says Ashley Olsen, who paired one of the jeweller’s unique bracelets with a floor-length black net dress.
A partnership between The Row and Mon Vintage, the luxury vintage sourcing service founded by Vestiaire Collective’s former head of vintage, Marie Blanchet, the 14-piece collection features one-of-a-kind Vautrin pieces dating from 1930 to 1965, and will be sold exclusively at The Row’s stores by appointment this November. Among the pieces in the collection is a rare 1950s bronze cuff, a 1952 multicoloured Murano glass bead necklace and a 1930s matching red necklace and earring set made from Talosel – a lightweight type of resin that Vautrin invented and patented herself in the 1950s (all price upon request).
1952 Murano glass-bead necklace with silver clasp, POA
Earrings from a 1930s Talosel jewellery set, POA
A self-taught artist, Vautrin learnt how to make objects in gilt and bronze as a young girl watching her father work in his metal foundry. After a brief stint in the studios of Elsa Schiaparelli, she opened her own boutique in Paris in 1938 where she sold jewellery, powder compacts, ashtrays, paperweights, mirrors and buttons made from glass, resin and bronze – a material at that time reserved for industrial use. She would often inscribe them with riddles, mythological symbols or verses from her favourite poets such as Dante or Prévert, earning her the sobriquet “poetess of metal”.
“What makes Line Vautrin’s pieces so coveted today is their rarity, originality, artistry and honest beauty,” says Blanchet. “The poetry of Line Vautrin’s work makes it an incarnation of true, refined luxury as well as a testament of the time. Like 1910s Mariano Fortuny garments, Line Vautrin’s jewellery and decorative objects are to me the definition of vintage.”
During her lifetime her whimsical creations, which included buttons made of blown glass containing tiny ships and jagged, convex “Witch” mirrors, found favour with Paris’s beau monde, including Françoise Sagan, Brigitte Bardot and Yves Saint Laurent, but she has continued to be rediscovered since her death in 1997, experiencing a resurgence of interest following a sale of her work at Christie’s Paris in 2015, where a record-setting 1963 mirror, “Si tous les Gars du Monde”, sold for €421,500.
A necklace from a 1950s Talosel jewellery set, POA
1950s bronze cuff, POA
1930s bronze medallion belt, POA
For the Olsen sisters, who are known for their curatorial eye and love of art and vintage – from wearing vintage Dior and Chanel gowns at the Met Gala to filling the walls of their New York townhouse store with works by artists like Basquiat and Man Ray – the collection marks their ongoing partnership with Blanchet, with whom they curated a selection of vintage clothes that were sold on The Row’s physical stores and e-commerce site last year.
For Blanchet, it’s a chance to showcase Vautrin’s initimatable designs: “Seeing Line Vautrin’s poetic pieces of art in The Row’s prefall 2023 show where they sit seamlessly within The Row’s chic and elevated world is, I hope, the best way of celebrating the incredible work of one of the major French artists of the 20th century.”