31 march 2017
The art of the French table
The essential accessory is part of all trips. From the Venice Simplon Orient Express to the transatlantic cruises, from the Riviera palaces to luxurious private residences, ERCUIS has been dedicating for 150 years its high-precision know-how to tableware. A member of the Comité Colbert, which promotes French taste, its values and its heritage know-how throughout the world, the Centaure brand constantly perpetuates and reinvents this inimitable French taste.
We might also believe that they are the accessories of a sedentary life. Well, that’s just the opposite! Dedicated to travel, the object is, in itself, a traveling object by excellence: gustative journey, certainly, by the tasting that it offers and tames, but also travels in space, from lunches on the grass by Auguste Renoir or Claude Monet to the great transatlantic cruises of the thirties.
At the heart of this world, Ercuis, a small village in the Oise, 50 km north of Paris, which gave its name to the brand, has been producing prestigious collectible pieces, silver or prestigious cutlery, mounted as exceptional pieces of jewelery, combining solid silver, exotic woods and semi-precious stones for evocative names of travel in time and space – Calypso, Médicis, Condé (models inherited from the 17th century) – and that are moving in their precious wooden boxes, covers or cases.
Everything at Ercuis speaks of luxury and voluptuousness, from these small details that make all the difference to embellish the everyday life. And because every journey involves pauses, to celebrate its 150th anniversary, Ercuis has just edited a table set, a cup and a candlestick, of breathtaking beauty named “Escale Enchantée”. The title summarizes the raison d’être of this goldsmithing house which maintains the French art of living at the top of luxury.
The journey of silver.
It all began in 1867, with Adrien Céleste Pillon, the parish priest of the village of Ercuis, who founded a society of “Artistic goldsmithery, embossed enamels, copper-plating, silvering, gilding and wire drawing”. It is rapidly developing and will change everything in this countryside: a working city is erected and labor flows to the factory whose blast furnaces cut the horizon. Silver was soon used, and was soon going to abandon its religious destination, in favor of a secular career in tableware. The opening twenty years later of a shop with a precious decoration in the tenth arrondissement of Paris coincides with the opening of the palaces on the Riviera and the Basque coast: the Société nouvelle de l’Orfèvrerie d’Ercuis, a brand created in 1908 under the the administration of the manufacturer Georges Maes, comes along this great impetus of elitist tourism.
Ercuis is part of all the festivities of the haute European cosmopolitan society.
It is not surprising that we find the Centaur (its punch) on the inaugural cruise on June 7, 1935 of the Normandy, from Paris to New York, symbol of France during the thirties, the height of luxury and French refinement considered as the most beautiful steamer ever built! This time, Ercuis kits out the tourist class, not the Première Classe. After the Second World War, Ercuis rebuilds, consolidates its role in cruises, luxury hotels and turns to more contemporary forms for In 1978, it joined the greatest names in luxury and the French exception in the Comité Colbert. When in 1981, the Venice Simplon Orient Express returned to service, to revive the art of travel of the 1920s, Ercuis is part of the adventure that gives pride to craftsmanship of art: each object has its room and every detail its raison d’etre. Rare know-how and noble materials revive the splendor of the original train, creating this permanent experience of a journey marked by emotion and desire. Ercuis then created an original engraved line of goldsmiths, still used today on the mythical train, a symbol of romanticism and adventure.
The permanent factory of the French taste: a work of creation
The collaboration with palaces and great chefs who animate them, is an engine of inventiveness giving rise to the creation of exclusive models within the framework of special orders. Ercuis’ in-house design department designs and manufactures custom-made pieces adapted to the specific needs of this specific clientele, sometimes in collaboration with external designers. Thus, the “Apostrophe” model, developed in close collaboration with the chef Anne-Sophie Pic and the designers Catherine and Bruno Lefebvre in 2011, had to meet the wish for “very long cutlery for a use that does not exist », spoons in the shape of a tapered spatula: a very sharp approach for a perfect osmosis between the dish and the cutlery imagined by the starred chef for her restaurant Pic in Valencia. For Chef Alain Ducasse, as part of the reopening of the Plazza Athénée palace in Montaigne Avenue in Paris in 2014, Ercuis reissues the 3T solid steel cover created in 1966 by Roger Talon, emblematic of the French design of the 1960s. Three components (cutlery, dishes, glasses) and the T for “Table, Tradition, industrial arTisanal”).
Not to mention the table accessories for the Shangri-la Hotel in Paris, a sweetshop for the Hotel de Paris in Monaco or a caviar service for the room service of the Royal Monceau Rafles in Paris.
An excellent know-how
All these beautiful things would remain inexistent without the work of the silversmiths who are hiding behind each piece. Of these men and women, we often discovers the name only by
an official decoration, such as the insignia of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres handed in February 2016 to Mr. Patrick Defacq, engraver, chiseller, goldsmith at Ercuis. At the age of sixteen and a half, he started an apprenticeship contract at the factory for a period of three years in parallel with his studies at the BJO, the school of the “Union Française de Bijouterie, Joaillerie, Orfèvrerie, Pierre et des Perles” located rue du Louvre in Paris. He learned the assembly of goldsmith’s work, that is to say the “old-fashioned” goldsmith’s work, which creates pieces worked from the metal or silver plate. Under the guidance of his Master of Learning, he learned steel engraving, a very important craft since it consists of creating the reworked molds afterwards with the chisel, a technique in the process of disappearance. Despite these thirty-eight years of work, learning is permanent, he assures. “In engraving, one must attain perfection. There is a search for the absolute. The elders taught me that the eye should not be shocked by faulty workmanship. The eye sees everything! “.
An Enchanted Escale
The sculptural creation created for the 150th anniversary of Ercuis is a true creative performance. Of exceptional quality, it is one of the most complex and difficult pieces that the goldsmith has ever had to face. Designed by Thierry Lebon, a former creative workshop manager at Lalique, the sculptor started from the “FLEURS” piece to create a floral and spring decor, adding swallows: a nod to art nouveau and above all a way of creating movement and lightness in addition to the meaning that he found interesting to celebrate the 150 years of the brand: the swallow, lucky charm, spring messenger, symbol of rebirth, freedom. This real challenge, both technical and artistic, brings the brand to a world where the decor is more present and more sculptural. Composed of about thirty elements, it was necessary to create different phases in the assembly which requires between three and four weeks. “We made two copies. I want orders to fall in order to reach perfection, “said Patrick Defacq. The material is silver-plated brass casting by electrolysis within the factory in Ercuis.
” Luxury ? The word of course is related to money. It is to have the means to afford beautiful pieces. But luxury, isn’t also to make these beautiful pieces, to be in contact with them every day? I’ve been in it for forty years! And when I see the prices on catalog, it is a form of valorization for all these years of work. After all this time, setting a beautiful table with a plate of porcelain, beautiful silver cutlery, is a pleasure that I have the chance to experience, on a daily basis.
Roger Talon’s 3T range is on sale at the Ercuis store, 8 bis rue Boissy d’Anglas, 75008 Paris