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Jaquet Droz and the art of paillonné enamel
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Jaquet Droz and the art of paillonné enamel

Wednesday, 10 June 2020
By The FHH Journal editors
The FHH Journal editors

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2 min read

The ancient decorative technique is used to showcase the Fleur de Lys and Fleur de Vie floral motifs cherished by visionary naturalist Jaquet Droz.

What sets the Jaquet Droz “Fleur de Lys” Grande Seconde Paillonnée and “Fleur de Vie” Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée apart is the art of paillonné enameling, an age-old decorative technique. The concept is based on another decorative art special to Jaquet Droz, the one used in the Grand Feu enamel dials. First, guilloché work is done on a gold dial. It is then covered in translucent colored enamel that lets the guilloché patterns shine through. Next, several layers of enamel are applied, each one individually fired in the oven. Then comes the phase that demands the dexterity of Jaquet Droz artisans because every new layer of enamel and firing can introduce cracks or flaws, which would mean starting from scratch. At this stage, the piece still shows slight variations in color. It also depends on each firing process.

Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée © Jaquet Droz
Petite Heure Minute Paillonnée © Jaquet Droz

It isn’t until the next phase that dainty motifs cut from a thin gold leaf, the paillons (or strips), are placed by hand one by one to create a figure. Once the design is done, the figures are also covered with another layer of enamel and fired in the same oven. This translucent coat will protect the paillonné motif for centuries to come, as if freezing it in place for all eternity. Each of these new pieces is extremely limited to a Numerus Clausus series of eight, and Jaquet Droz opted for two distinctive ornamental designs: Fleur de Lys and Fleur de Vie. The former symbolizes kings and emperors. The latter, the fleur de vie, is a geometric design that has traveled through millennia and across cultures.

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