Japan, France Come Together: Kyoto Exhibition Features Van Cleef & Arpels

Japan, France come together: Kyoto exhibition features Van Cleef & Arpels, Japanese traditional craftwork

By Midori Yamamura / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterKYOTO — French jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels has brought a dazzling collection of gem-studded crafts to Japan's cultural center and former capital. The jeweler selected Kyoto for its annual international exhibition, opting to highlight the elegance and craftsmanship of its work in a side-by-side display with Japanese pieces.

The exhibition, titled "Mastery of an Art: Van Cleef & Arpels — High Jewelry and Japanese Crafts," is being held at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, in Kyoto's Sakyo Ward through Aug. 6. Visitors can admire about 330 pieces ranging from Japanese metal, ceramic and other works to creations from the French house.

Founded in Paris in 1906, Van Cleef & Arpels is particularly well-known for the Mystery Set, its signature setting technique that conceals the prongs holding the stones.



The Yomiuri Shimbun

This clip in the shape of a chrysanthemum, made in 1937, features rubies set using the Mystery Set technique.


The Yomiuri Shimbun

An incense container by Shunsho Hattori, right, and a clip in the shape of overlapping leaves


The Yomiuri Shimbun

A vanity case by the French jewelry house placed on a wooden stand by Kiyotsugu Nakagawa


The Yomiuri Shimbun

A cloisonne vase made during the Meiji era, left, and a collaret made in 1939


Nicolas Bos, president and chief executive officer of the jeweler, said both the French and Japanese pieces on display show the finest craftsmanship.

The exhibition represents a new cultural exchange between the two countries. Works by active Japanese artisans and craftspeople from the French jeweler are placed side by side, allowing visitors to appreciate and compare the two artistic styles.

One example is a display with a French jewelry clip and a Japanese incense container. The clip is made in the shape of overlapping leaves, with one covered in emeralds and one covered in diamonds. The glittering, specially cut emeralds were arranged using the Mystery Set technique.

The incense container next to it was made by Japanese artist Shunsho Hattori, who used lacquer and the maki-e technique for decorating with gold powder. Green beetle wings are arranged in a dazzling square pattern on the lid’s center.

Another collaborative display features a high-end vanity case from the French house adorned with floral patterns embedded with gems. The case is placed on a wooden marquetry stand made by Kiyotsugu Nakagawa — a living national treasure and one of Japan’s best wood craftsmen — to deftly juxtapose Japanese and European artistic styles.

There is also a section exhibiting Japanese and Van Cleef works from the period beginning with the Meiji era (1868-1912) and ending with the Showa era (1926-89).

Bos said Japanese people have a deep appreciation of the traditional culture and high-quality artistries. The CEO added that he was excited by the potential for new creativity inspired by the fusion of different cultures.


"Mastery of an Art: Van Cleef & Arpels — High Jewelry and Japanese Crafts" runs through Aug. 6 at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto. The museum is closed on Mondays (except for July 17) and July 18. Visit http://highjewelry.exhn.jp/en/ for details.