CHAPTER 1 The FRIENDSHIPS

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1.1 - THE PIECES

The Aigle Protecteur necklace pays tribute to Gabrielle Chanel’s Russian Paris, with the double-headed eagle, crafted in platinum and diamonds, keeping watch over the rare shield-cut diamonds and sparkling rows of briolette-cut diamonds.

1.2 - THE STORY

“The Russians fascinated me” Gabrielle Chanel
© 1976, HERMANN, www.editions-hermann.fr
Serge

While Paris would see a wave of Russian émigrés as a result of the 1917 revolution, Serge Diaghilev, the great Russian-born critic, curator and ballet impresario, imbued the city with the mystic of Russia as early as 1909. With the sensational debut of the Ballets Russes, a Paris-born troupe of Russian dancers that would become the most influential ballet company of the 20th century, Diaghilev conjured a vision of Russia in the imagination of Parisians.

the aigle protecteur neklace

In this video, the model is wearing the Aigle Protecteur necklace.

Although Gabrielle Chanel and Serge Diaghilev came from distinctly different backgrounds — he from a cultured and wealthy Russian family, she, an orphan raised by nuns — the unlikely pair were kindred spirits, with a like-minded work ethic and disregard for convention. One evening, in her townhouse at 29 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, Coco Chanel threw a glorious event in Diaghilev’s honour, it was a stunning party where the Russians rubbed shoulders with Parisian society figures and artists, while a band played in the opulent setting.

A model wearing the Aigle Protecteur necklace
Gabrielle Chanel and her friends
Gabrielle Chanel surrounded by friends, including Igor Stravinsky and Serge Lifar, the star of Serge Diaghilev’s legendary Ballets Russes, © Photo Roger Schall / Collection Schall
Gabrielle Chanel surrounded by friends, including Igor Stravinsky and Serge Lifar
An illustration of Gabrielle Chanel at a dinner, from the February 1923 edition of American Harper’s Bazaar p.29. All rights reserved.
“Serge invented a Russia for abroad, and, naturally, abroad was taken in”
Paul MORAND, L'Allure de Chanel, 1976, © Hermann p.103

Gabrielle Chanel observed, as Paris went wild for his fervent dancers and fictionalised version of Russian sophistication — an observation that would have a profound effect. In 1922, Coco launched the “Russian” collection, replete with rubachkas, babushkas scarves and folkloric embroidery — a vision of Russia by Gabrielle Chanel.

1.3 - SAVOIR FAIRE

1.3 - SAVOIR FAIRE

Taking inspiration from the Russian artefacts in Gabrielle Chanel’s apartment, the Artistic Director of the CHANEL High Jewellery studio sketches a study for the Aigle Protecteur necklace, creating a likeness of the double-headed eagle perched atop Gabrielle Chanel’s extravagant mirror.