Exactly 30 years ago, Lorenz Bäumer launched his company and set up shop on Place Vendôme. At the same time, he began a collection of photos dedicated to this iconic location in the world of haute joaillerie.
By Sandrine Merle.
“The idea was to celebrate my relationship with this place, which I saw every day from my living-room windows,” explains Lorenz Bäumer. In 1995, when he set up shop upstairs at no. 4, he was still just a young independent jeweler. At the time, it took a certain audacity to take over this address, occupied by such century-old brands as Boucheron, Van Cleef & Arpels and Chaumet. The atmosphere is still rather staid… This Centrale graduate, a great surfing enthusiast, stands out with his highly poetic architectural, jewelry, featuring flora. His living rooms are lined with straw marquetry and contemporary works of art. In the greatest secrecy, he also designed the jewelry launched a few months earlier by Chanel.
A born collector
As a child, he collected wine bottle labels, which he then glued into albums. Later, he moved on to knives, furniture, antique picture frames, Japanese whiskies, tie-pins, art deco silverware, sand from the beaches where he had surfed, and so on. “All these objects that accumulate nourish me and enable me to explain to my collaborators the ideas behind a creation. It’s an intellectual engine,” he explains. Sometimes, he gets rid of some of them: the 2019 sale at Sotheby’s was an inventory à la Prévert in which photos rubbed shoulders with sculptures by Alexandre Noll, furniture by the Campana brothers, ceramics by Jouve or a mask from Nepal.
The history of Place Vendôme
In 2013, Lorenz Bäumer closed his upstairs salons to open a boutique on the other side of the square, at No. 19. Here, he presents his collection of almost 200 photos, “original prints on which the column or its reflection must appear”, he adds. The history of this place, as eventful as it is fascinating, intersects with that of photography. “All the techniques are represented. The oldest image, from 1850, is a daguerreotype on salted paper. And all the major events are captured, starting with the Commune, the first to benefit from this invention. In one of Bruno Braquehais’s shots (a precursor of photojournalism), the column still appears standing, surrounded by barricades. “It was used, like many others, by the police to identify the Communards and bear witness to their role. Recent events include the construction of the underground parking lot and, of course, the renovation of the column.”
Place Vendôme and its Beautiful People
In this collection, Doisneau (thanks to whom we can see the brass band marching during the Second World War on rue de Rivoli), Charbonnier, Baldus and JR rub shoulders with the anonymous. The column rises majestically under the snow, night and day. At the top, Napoleon appears sometimes as a consul, sometimes as a Roman emperor. The collection is packed with beautiful people: Jacques Fath and Marcel Rochas window-shopping, the model Bettina, Elsa Schiaparelli and Gabrielle Chanel leaning against the balcony of her suite at the Ritz. You can have fun finding the angle from which the image was taken (a shop window, the Rue de Castiglione, the 1st floor of No. 18); you can also look for correspondences. On the day of the Liberation, for example, the same barricade was captured by Cartier-Bresson and by an anonymous photographer, both from the rue de Castiglione: in the first shot, we see a gutted tank and white flags hung from the windows by the Germans, in the second a German under arrest.
Intimately linked to the Place Vendôme, Lorenz Bäumer is today the only jeweler to hold the keys to the column. I was lucky enough to be able to accompany him to the top… (see the horizontal diaporama)
Banner image @ Sandrine Merle for The French Jewelry Post