Looking at Venice from above, the Grand Canal has the sinuous shape of a snake. So what better place than the Lagunar city for an exhibition dedicated to Bulgari’s Serpenti? From December 4, 2019 to March 1, 2020 Venice, at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, hosts an exhibition dedicated to the iconic jewel of the Roman Maison, now part of the LVMH group.
The exhibition is organized by Bulgari or, better with its brand Bvlgari and T Fondaco dei Tedeschi by DFS, the lifestyle department store in the heart of Venice. The exhibition is called Bvlgari Serpenti – Myth and Mastery and tells the story and unpublished aspects of the jewels that have fascinated many women, including divas like Liz Taylor.
The exhibition is organized in the environments of the Event Pavilion, on the fourth floor of the Fondaco and includes an excursus of the famous Serpenti Bvlgari creations, from the first more stylized models made with the Tubogas technique to the more realistic ones with gold flakes or enamelled polychrome will highlight. An evolution that still continues.
On five totems images of shots by great photographers have been installed who immortalized muses of the world of cinema and fashion with Bvlgari Serpenti creations of yesterday and today. On video panel, an anthology of historical images and works of art inspired by the myth of the snake will complete the story offering a meeting point and reflection in the different cultures of the world. All around, the motif of the scales of the snake will wrap the visitor favoring the immersion in a fascinating universe made of beauty, creativity and craftsmanship.
Emblem of seduction, rebirth and transformation, the symbol of the snake has been intertwined for centuries with the history of humanity, capturing its imaginary in the East as in the West. Since ancient times, the animal’s ability to renew itself by changing its skin, to remain in contact with the earth and at the same time to rise from it, to wind itself sinuously or to defeat threatening predators has fed myths and legends, inspiring artistic production in many fields .
In the 1940s, Bvlgari grasped the expressive power of this evocative sign, reinterpreting it for the first time in jewelery with supple bracelet watches that became, decade after decade, icons of his creativity.
Bvlgari’s snake-shaped watch bracelets have become a reference point for jewelery. They are characterized by the dial set in the head, studded with gems and with the golden strap that wraps the wrist.
The origin of the first watch bracelets is linked to the use of Bvlgari’s tubogas technique. The first specimens date back to the late forties and were in the shape of a highly stylized snake with spirals made either in the typical tubogas, or in a gold mesh that wrapped the wrist. The watch case and dial, usually square or rectangular, were placed at one end to evoke the snake’s head. The elegant sobriety of these creations was an immediate success in the post-war years, when the economic revival in Europe was still to come and the showy pieces were neither suitable nor affordable. Therefore, sought after accessories with a function, in harmony with the female desire to appear with a distinctive ornament at the expense of the monetary constraints that surrounded them.
In the following years, this kind of watch was seen in ever more varied and interesting versions exploring any kind of shape with regard to the case and the dial: round, square, octagonal, pear-shaped and with rounded edges, with or without a bezel diamonds. The case was positioned at the end or in the center of the spiral tubogas bracelet, and was itself made in every possible variant: steel, blackened steel or a combination of gold and steel. The mechanism was always of high quality: Audemars Piguet, Jaeger LeCoultre, Movado and Vacheron Constantin usually customized their mechanisms for Bvlgari, the logo of the person who customized the movement, appeared next to the logo on the dial.
The second half of the fifties saw the first models in which the snake was rendered in a realistic way, affirming the connection with the ancient tradition in a more explicit way. In Bvlgari’s snake-shaped watches from that period, the watch case was hidden in the snake’s head and the dial lay under a hinged cover at the top and center of the head.
Numerous particularly elaborate manufacturing elements formed the body: each link was hand-made in gold foil and were fixed together with welded gold pins or, in the case of glazed versions, screwed. The core was crossed by a spring made of white gold which ensured perfect flexibility.
The first animalier models were made exclusively in yellow gold with platinum heads and tails and decorated with diamonds. Elizabeth Taylor’s watch, immortalized on the actress’s wrist in a photograph taken on the Cleopatra set in 1962, is a magnificent example. The head of the snake is paved with diamonds with emerald eyes embellished with a crest made of marquis-shaped diamonds. Of course, in the following years numerous variants were produced, even without the watch itself. The body of the snake has always been in gold but the small scales of the snake of the first models have become larger, adorned with decorations of polygonal diamonds or with multicolored enamel in the most varied and bright combinations including turquoise and white, red and yellow , green, red, black and light blue and so on. Of these variants, for the Harlequin model, so called because it was characterized by four colors, an average of two hundred hours of work were required, being longer to be realized since it was necessary for each enamelled pigment to be cooked separately.
The procedure of enamelling the polygonal cavities that transformed the scales was a process that required a long and patient preparation of three days: the grinding of colored glass, the decantation of powders, washing, application, cooking, cooling and finish. Hard stones such as coral, turquoise, lapis lazuli or jade were also successfully adopted to create the scales, always generating strong color combinations. To complete such an intricate line, several stones were used to simulate the snake’s eyes. Yellow or colored diamonds, rubies, sapphires and emeralds with pear, marquis or circular shapes were used.
The lively animalier versions reflected the trends of society and customs of the sixties, when women showed a more self-confident attitude, reflecting deeply on their role in society and challenging conventions. Daring and charismatic, the Serpenti creations expressed a female attitude responsible for the laws that governed seduction, making fun of the traditional role of the “sinful woman.” Serpenti creations wrapped around the wrist immediately conveyed their belonging to the charismatic woman who wore them.
Diana Vreeland, the New York fashion judge, loved to wear her double-looped Bvlgari python belt as a necklace. Vreeland was so fascinated by the seductive power of snakes that in a 1968 memorandum addressed to his editorial staff he wrote: “Don’t forget the snake … the snake should be on every finger and around every wrist and everywhere.” Not by chance, fashion magazines began to offer shots made by masters of photography such as Gian Paolo Barbieri, Franco Rubartelli or Bret Stern with models wearing Bvlgari’s Serpenti creations in self-confident poses. Not surprisingly, an iconic Bvlgari advertising campaign of the seventies was characterized by a large B wrapped in numerous variants of the Serpenti models, further affirming the importance of this motif in the creative universe of the brand. In addition to the watch bracelets, over the years the Bvlgari Serpenti line has been enriched with necklaces, rings, belts, a gold clutch and with the development of the Maison’s range of accessories in the nineties, including sunglasses and fine leather bags. The snake motif has thus expressed and continues to express the multi-faceted creativity of the Maison, while at the same time containing the constant stylistic evolution. A centenary metaphor of transformation and rebirth, and there is no better animal to encapsulate the mystery of time.
BVLGARI Snakes. Myth and Mastery
Fondaco dei Tedeschi by DFS in collaboration with Bvlgari
DFS T Fondaco dei Tedeschi
From 4 December 2019 to 1 March 2020
Venice, Calle del Fontego dei Tedeschi (Rialto Bridge)
Time: 9.30 – 19.30
Reservation not required