Vacheron Constantin has been a patron of the Ópera National de Paris since 2007 and the partnership has produced some fantastic works of horlogical art, including the Métier d’Art Chagall & L’Opera de Paris “Tribute to Famous Composers” (a unique piece) and as well has released the first two watches in a series of enamel masterpieces honoring the composers depicted on the ceiling of the Paris Opera House –Tchaikovski, and Mozart.
In April of this year, Vacheron Constantin presented three unique pieces in the new Métiers d’Art Hommage à l’Art de la Danse collection, which are interpretations of works by impressionist painter and scupltor, Edgar Degas (1834-1917) was controversial during his lifetime for many reasons, not the least of which were his apparent enjoyment of his reputation as a solitary grouch and his rejection of identification with any school of painting (though today he’s largely identified with Impressionism.) He was an extraordinarily meticulous artist who often returned to the same subjects over and over again, and his fascination with the forms and compositions he observed at the ballet are especially well know.
It’s this strong identification of Degas’ work with the ballet that led Vacheron Constantin to create the Métiers d’Art Hommage à l’Art de la Danse unique pieces. As unique pieces they are needless to say not exactly easy to view in person and we were delighted to find that through sheer luck, one of them was “in residence” at Vacheron Constantin’s Madison Avenue, New York, boutique.
The watch in question has a grisaille enamel dial after a well known canvas by Degas known as Two Dancers On Stage, which was completed in 1874. The painting was, not surprisingly, as controversial as Degas himself when it was first shown with an English critic deriding it as “more curious than attractive.” The composition was a challenging one for its time; asymmetrical, with considerable empty space and one of the dancers’ hands cut off by the edge of the frame.
Since then it’s gone on to become one of Degas’ most celebrated, loved, and reproduced paintings and the Two Dancers On Stage watch has taken on the considerable challenge of rearranging the composition for a round rather than rectangular frame. The work (by one of Switzerland’s most renowned enamelists) is done in a style of enamel known as grisaille, in which white Limoges enamel is painted on a dark surface. A dark blue or black surface is customary but in this case the enamelist chose to use a deep, translucent brown as a base which better echoes the palette of Degas’ original work. The artist also chose to center the dancers on the dial and to restore (after a 139 year wait) the hand to the dancer on the right. Manipulating the pigment in grisaille enamel is a unique challenge and the artist used a variety of implements, including needles and cactus thorns.
The result captures beautifully both the vivid foreground lighting and depth of the original painting in a genuinely masterful re-interpretation.
The Vacheron Constantin Métiers d’Art Hommage à l’Art de la Danse “Two Dancers On Stage” after Edgar Degas. Dial depicting two dancers on stage at the Paris Opera in grisaille enamel on a translucent brown enamel base. Case, 18 carat white gold, 40mm x 9.20mm. Movement: calibre 2460 SC, center seconds self winding chronometer, certified by and stamped with the Hallmark of Geneva; 40 hour power reserve. Unique piece, currently available for interested parties to view at Vacheron Constantin’s Madison Avenue boutique; $154,000. By one of modern watchmaking’s most esteemed enamelists and of especial interest to collectors of miniature horological enamels.