Mother of pearl - Perlmutter - Nacre

A short essay on the occasion of the exhibition at the Musée de la Nacre et de la Tabletterie

Mother of pearl is a most elegant natural material from marine bivalves and mollusks, such as the pearl oyster (Pinctada margaritifera), the Haliotis or Abalone, and Nautilus shells. It is a brittle material, as can be seen by electron miscroscopy. Since antiquity, mother of pearl is used to embellish objects e.g. as inlay in furniture or musical instruments. On early fans, nacre was used in small plates fixed onto ivory as techniques to create longer mother of pearl sticks were not known. From about mid-18th century, full mother of pearl sticks can be found. Most precious are nacre brisé fans cut like lace around 1820, or massive brisé fans that were rather to show off than to fan oneself. Below some examples on how nacre was used on fans:
Nacre plates on ivory, ca. 1720
Iridescent nacre below guard ca. 1780

Nacre on ivory, painted and varnished, ca. 1740

Nacre sticks with Amor, ca. 1750, maybe Chinese

Nacre petals applied on Chinoiserie fan, ca. 1780
Nacre "thumb"ca. 1830
Duvelleroy, flowers inlaid, ca. 1860

Nacre with golden ornaments, marriage fan, ca. 1860
Anilin-tainted MOP brisé, early 20th c., probably Vienna

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