F eatured in the upcoming London Fine Jewels sale, open for bidding from 28 May until 4 June, are a pair of moonstone and gold droplet earrings of organic form, designed by Nanna Ditzel in 1961 for Georg Jensen. Formerly in the collection of Cecilia Green (1931-2003), the earrings are notable for the use of gold, as opposed to silver, and illustrate the elegant and fluid pieces that Georg Jensen and Nanna Ditzel were revered for.
Georg Jensen founded his company in 1904 and launched a design aesthetic that was to become synonymous with Scandinavian silver and holloware. Jensen’s earliest pieces of jewelry were, in their essence, wearable and functionable, set with inexpensive gems and with impressionistic botanical motifs, inspired by the natural world. To this end, Jensen was instrumental in the development of ‘skønvirke’, the Danish equivalent of the English Arts and Crafts movement.
An expansion of the company into Paris, London and New York during the 1920s, largely thanks to the investment of Peder Anders Pedersen who also became the company’s chairman, allowed Jensen an artistic freedom which catalysed in Grand Prix awards at the international exhibitions in Paris (1925), Barcelona (1929) and Brussels (1935). By 1935, the year of his death, he had received world acclaim and was hailed in the New York Herald Tribune as ‘The Greatest Silversmith of the Last 300 Years’.
Early in the evolution of his company, Jensen fostered talent and initiated a legacy of collaboration with other designers and craftsmen. The moonstone and gold earrings, one of the results of a collaborative relationship between Nanna Ditzel and the Georg Jensen company, embody the minimalist and sleek mid-century modernist style, which Ditzel is famous for, with the grace and serenity of the Art Nouveau period, being a cornerstone of Georg Jensen design.
Considered ‘The First Lady of Danish Design’, Ditzel originally trained as a cabinet maker, but her versatility led to accomplishments in any array of art forms including furniture, tableware, textiles and jewellery. In 1959, with her husband Jørgen Ditzel, Ditzel designed the iconic ‘Hanging Basket’ rattan chair, produced by R. Wengler. The chair was made to be suspended, and with its simple but striking aesthetic, became a coveted prop in fashion shoots.
Ditzel was the first woman to design for Georg Jensen, which by the 1960s was firmly established as a progressive and collective company. From 1954 onwards, Ditzel worked with Georg Jensen, producing sought-after jewelry in silver and gold, and the relationship generated several prizes and awards. In 1956, she and her husband and collaborator Jørgen were awarded the Lunning Prize (considered to be the highest award in Scandinavian Design), and she was made a Knight of Order of the Dannebrog in 1996.
The 1960s saw the establishment of another significant relationship in the arts: one between Cecilia Green and artist Sir William Russell Flint, R.A., P.R.W.S. Cecilia, recognised as a singular beauty and an accomplished dancer, appeared in Flint’s watercolours throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Cecilia's parents were Russian Jews who fled Kiev shortly before the revolution and settled in the east end of London. Despite a childhood marred by illness, she grew into a strikingly handsome young woman, who was determined to launch a dancing career.
Sadly, reoccurring health problems curtailed her dancing dream, and instead the ambitious Cecilia decided to become a professional artist's model. When a 21-year-old Cecilia knocked on Flint’s door looking for work in 1953, a spellbound Flint knew he had found a living, breathing embodiment of his ideal of feminine beauty, and later commented 'I had adapted faces to make them look like hers years and years before I met her'. Flint and Cecilia parted artistic ways in the mid-1960s, and a witty and intelligent Cecilia later established herself as an artist of humorous watercolours.