The History of Masriera
At the close of the 19th century, Barcelona had a thriving cultural life and the new artistic movements that were sweeping through Europe had already become firmly established in the city. From 1900, the House of Masriera, which was founded in 1839, became the unique representative of Art Noveau jewelry in Spain. Thanks to the creations of the young Luis Masriera (1872 – 1958), the firm took its place as one of the most prestigious jewelers in the world, as is demonstrated by the numerous international prizes it has received throughout its long history. Masriera brought a new style to the world of Art Nouveau, characterized by its Mediterranean influences and its masterly treatment of enamel in all its techniques, giving rise to what became known as Barcelona Enamel.
A Unique History
There is no other name in the world of jewelry that can boast having produced Art Noveau jewelry uninterruptedly for over 100 years. Masriera has achieved this distinction, always maintaining the same high standards of quality and using its own exclusive techniques, designs and time-hallowed casts. With its unique history in the field of world jewelry, the house of Masriera also the proud possessor of the most important collection of historical documents relating to Art Noveau jewelry anywhere in the world today. Yet, it is their unique character and beauty which makes Masriera pieces so highly sought after by collectors, as is witnessed by their unfailing success at the world’s leading auction houses, such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and their continued presence in numerous museums of modern art. The undeniable importance of Masriera jewelry was reflected as early as 1888, when the firm took part in the Universal Exhibition of Barcelona, where it was awarded the gold medal, and again at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, in 1889.
Although the house of Masriera goes back almost 200 years, its most brilliant contribution has been its jewelry and other creations in the Art Noveau style.
The love of the modern, which was central to this artistic movement, gave rise to sinuous, harmonious forms in both the decorative arts and architecture, with a distinctive iconography made up of fantastic, dream-like and sensual elements.
The movement was firmly rooted in Barcelona by 1900 and even today, Barcelona is one of the foremost European cities in terms of its Art Noveau heritage. For the first time, in Art Noveau, jewelry was conceived as a vehicle for artistic expression, an art form in its own right. Jewelry, in fact, became a work of art. In this context, and in addition to its seductive symbolist iconography, Masriera jewelry is distinguished by its meticulous design and high standards of craftsmanship, both in the treatment of the precious metals and the enamels, one of its principal and, at the same time, most characteristic features.
The symbolist-inspired female form finds its utmost expression in the fairy and woman-insect figures portrayed in the collection. Winged nymphs holding pearls encircled with diamonds transport us to the symbolic dream-world of Art Noveau, in which the harmony of design and tone reigns supreme, where flashes of translucent light create a subtle sensual effect.
The representation of flower has a special place in Art Noveau jewelry. Gardens, woodlands scenes and detail of a single flower become a dazzling miracle of color and form. The precision of the basse-taille enamels endows the textures with a fragile, sensual delicacy. The result is a masterpiece with echoes of a midsummer night’s dream.
Masriera succumbed to the ethereal, decorative charm of tiny invertebrate creatures. Exploiting to the full possibilities afforded by the variety of precious stones, together with his command of the plique-a-jour technique of translucent enamel work, Masriera succeeded in recreating the transparency and light suffusing the unfurled wings of insects.
The recreation of a dream-world whose inhabitants are transformed into fantastic, quasi-mythological beings was one of the goals of Art Noveau.
The Technique of Enamels
Masriera can pride itself on having the best jewelry enamel workshop in the world. This technique has been perfected as the result of 150 years of uninterrupted activity. This is one of the secrets behind the perfection and mastery of Masriera’s craftsmen, whose skill is meticulously passed on from generation to generation. Enamel, which involves one of the most ancient artistic techniques, and can be traced back to ancient Egypt, takes on a unique dimension in the Masriera workshops. It is applied to the pieces by means of various techniques, of which the most characteristic are plique-a-jour, in translucent enamels, and basse-taille, which gives extremely subtle opaque textures. Masriera’s constant research into this technique has perfected the processes to such a degree that it has opened up new horizons in enamel-work, giving rise to what has become universally known as Barcelona Enamel.
Masriera enamel is a durable fired enamel and is handmade from start to finish, according to a secret process handed down through the Masriera workshops. The complexity of this process and its end result are what distinguishes Masriera jewelry market and are also the guaranty of these enamels of unrivalled quality.
The Masriera Collection
The Masriera collection is undoubtedly the most important collection of Art Noveau jewelry in the world, in terms of both its quality and the huge variety of designs that it uses. The most characteristic Masriera pieces are those inspired in the female figure, which is always portrayed in a symbolist, ethereal manner, thanks largely to the enamels used in the composition. While faithful to the thematic repertoire of Art Noveau, the collection is also remarkable for its references to Nature, both the animal and the plant world. Hundreds of different flowers, types of foliage and petals coexist with insects, birds, frogs, swans and dragons in a fantastic dream-world: the world of Masriera, where woman is often magically fussed with the natural world to produce the woman-insect and the woman-flower. These elements are to be found in all kinds of pieces, from the now classic brooches, pendants, bracelets and chokers to the pins, earrings, combs and hair bands, as well as in items from the men’s jewelry range, such as cuff links and tie-pins. Each piece is individually numbered and comes with a certificate of guaranty.