Jutta Klingebiel

Jewellery is at times a matter of intimacy ...


... and he tells us stories – about love, about events in life, about encounters and fascinations, about the passion for beautiful things.

Jutta Klingebiel has decided on this as the message her jewellery is to convey. She is the one who unlimately thinks up these stories. She invents fictitious people, whose portraits in delicate enamel colours adorn her pieces of jewellery. In a confrontation between two stud ear-rings, for instance a couple meets in such a way that one is compelled to assume that they belong together. Do they come from the past or the present? A pendant in the shape of a medallion shows clasping hands. They are images of friendship, fidelity, promises, memories ...


‘The characters emerge during painting. To me they are talismans, with a whiff of another time about them.’ (Jutta Klingebiel, 2000)


It is not just the portraits that suggest this idea. Simply the choice of enamel painting conjures up traditions long forgotten. Jutta Klingebiel reawakens them to new life. Her small-scale works repose in simple settings which underscore their character as framed pictures. In any case an unsual approach indeed for a young goldsmith who studied at one of the most important schools for the art of jewellery in Europe, the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Nürnberg. Perhaps this choice may be interpreted as a deliberate gesture against fashion trends, against the clamorous present.


 ‘The noble technique of enamelling also places the painter’s palette at the artist goldsmith’s disposal and a real goldsmith is also a sculptor and poet.’ (Julius Schneider, 1928[1])


The heyday of enamel painting lies far back in time. Greco-Roman antiquity and the Byzantine era were familiar with the process. The consummate mastery later achieved in the ‘Limoge enamel’ of the 15th and 16th centuries was celebrated. Only highly specialised workshops were able to handle what was then known as ‘painting with fire’ – an arcane craft that was a well-kept secret – which adorned jewellery medallions, vessels made for display, dressing-table sets and tea, coffee and liqueur services.

   Important experts on the subject – including Denis Diderot – emphasised and marvelled at the enormous difficulty and the skills exacted in the making of these precious objects. Their sheen, their delicacy, the brilliance of their colours and their durability were all qualities which were appreciated as particular advantages of the genre. In France its practitioners were even numbered among the exponents of the ‘arts libres et nobles’ – an extraordinary honour not generally conferred on jewellery-making, which was merely classified as a craft.


   From the outset, the portrait, as a sign of friendship and commemoration, has played a major role. There have always been concomitant echoes of the memento mori theme. This was promoted by the small, intimate format, whose origins and destiny are so closely interwoven with those of miniature painting. In earlier art history it was women artists who distinguished themselves in such small formats since, as is well known, they did not have access to academy painting so that the size and subject matter formerly regarded as significant represented forbidden territory. The elegance of the jewellery format, on the other hand, was definitely permitted to them, at the latest from the days of the great women medieval manuscript illuminators, such as Hildegard von Bingen and Herrad von Landsberg. Giorgio Vasari features five women miniaturists alone in his Lives.



Maria del Rosario, Francisco de Goya’s adopted daughter, opted for this career and in so doing was even actively supported by her father. At European courts quite a bevy of celebrated and well-paid women artists enjoyed high repute by virtue of their portrait miniatures. And, incidently, it should be mentioned that even the great Benvenuto Cellini started out in the workshop of a miniature painter in Bologna to hone his skills in this craft. In the Romantic era, the sentimental aspects of this art on a small scale underwent a renascence. And that above all is what has remained in memory.


‘People who seek symbolic meanings do not grasp the inherent poetry and the secret of pictures.’ (René Magritte)[2]


In Jutta Klingebiel’s work several strands of that history converge to be distilled in the statement she is making.

   The affinities between the arts became more of a matter of course in the 20th century. Sculptors and painters created pieces of jewellery; goldsmiths, for their part, crossed the boundaries to other creative disciplines. Something similar is also going on in the figurative sense in Jutta Klingebiel’s aesthetic strategy.


   Of all the many processes involved in the art of enamelling, she has, in the truest sense, chosen the ‘most painterly’. She places her freely invented figures on a primed ground – a complex and laborious process which finishes with several firings. That calls for assured, rapid work as well as technical know-how and skill – and above all patience. It is no coincidence that she prefers a dark ground on which those portrayed stand out radiantly yet in soft focus – distinguished by a precious brilliance. She is not so much concerned with naturalistic reproduction as with dream-like visions which leave ample scope for personal fantasies and associations.

   Jutta Klingebiel evokes an intimate world concerned with essentials, the poetic and emotional things which tend to recede into the background in the routine of our daily lives. In her pieces of jewellery, by contrast, they are furnished with a stage for a permanent engagement.


Dr. Ellen Maurer-Zilioli


Die Neue Sammlung

Staatliches Museum für angewandte Kunst


In der Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich


Translation by Joan Clough



[1] Schneider, Julius (a goldsmith and teacher at the Städtische Fachschule für Gold- und Silberschmiede in Munich): Kunsthandwerkliches Emaillieren. Leipzig 1928, p. VII

[2] Quoted in Simic, Charles: Medici Groschengrab. Michael Krüger (ed.). Munich/Vienna 1999, p. 70


Any publication of this text must be discussed and approved by Mrs.Dr.Maurer, since the copyright is being hold by Die Neue Sammlung.