Now and then I’d like to share with you a little bit about my favorite silversmiths. Jean Puiforcat is one of them. When you step into a gallery that’s mostly full of highly decorated and ornamented silver, his cool, clean Art Deco pieces simply radiate a beautiful simplicity. “It’s ‘summer silver,’” a friend once joked to me.
The Parisian Puiforcat (1897-1945) has a rather interesting background for a silversmith: yes, like so many of them, he was born into a long line of silversmiths, but he was also a World War I veteran and Olympic hockey player. He apprenticed for his family’s firm and studied sculpture with Louis-Aimé Lejeune before setting up his own shop in Paris in 1922. Although he was well versed in the applied decoration of traditional French silver arts, Puiforcat instead quickly distinguished himself with the restrained, pure lines of his silver work. The simplicity of his forms are balanced by the rich materials, such as ivory, rosewood, and lapis lazuli, that are incorporated into his compositions.
Of critical importance was Puiforcat’s participation in Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann's Pavilion of a Rich Collector, which was the epitome of the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels, the landmark exhibition from which the term “Art Deco” is derived. He was also a founding member of the Union des Artistes Moderne (U.A.M), despite the fact that he continued to design luxury items while the U.A.M railed against the affluent elite and instead emphasized products for mass production. A bit of a stubborn man, no? I think it was the hockey player in him.
Mathematics and God were also strong influences on Puiforcat’s silver work. But that, dears, is worthy of its own entry. Until then, enjoy this beautiful Puiforcat Tea and Coffee set from the year of the Paris Exposition. The tetradecagonal cylinders rising from circular pedestals are brilliant in their simplicity, and the silver makes a lovely contrast against the rosewood lids and handles.