Ernest Membré was a French jeweller who specialised in beautiful enamel work for which he was well known, as noted by Henri Vever in his indispensable guide to 19th Century French jewellery and jewellers ‘La Bijouterie Française au XIXe Siècle’.
Membré’s family were from Metz where his father fought alongside Ernest and Paul Vever in the battle to save the town from German occupation in 1870. Unfortunately their attempt failed and in 1871 the Vever family and many others, likely including Membré, left Metz for good and went to Paris where they re-established their businesses and started again, such was their determination to remain in France.
Membré’s enamel work typifies the skilful craftsmanship, variety of technique and masterful blending and shading of colour that the finest quality French Art Nouveau enamel jewellery is renowned for. Alongside this, his goldwork demonstrates the quintessential fluidity and sinuousness of form that is synonymous with Art Nouveau style with gemstones used simply to highlight the design rather than playing a starring role.
Little is known of Membré’s life which is not uncommon for many French workers of this period. As Joseph Sataloff comments in his work on Art Nouveau Jewellery (which details the Membré makers mark), whilst little information on these craftsmen is often available “their stylistic range and consistently high standard of production identify French work as surely as any hallmark.” He goes on to say that many makers seem to have made just a very few pieces and that whilst the quality of them would suggest that they were prolific figures of the movement the quantity of their work that has survived would indicate otherwise. It is most likely that Membré would be classified in this way. He was clearly a very skilled craftsman who had his own registered makers mark and was well known to his contemporaries but very little of his work or information about him survives today.