Shedding its skin for three quarters of a century, Bulgari Serpenti celebrates its 75th Anniversary in 2023. Having made its way into history as the icon of endless metamorphosis, its appeal remains unchanged through each creative transformation, always faithful to its original essence.
Transcending time, space and creativity, the tale of Bulgari’s Serpenti began in the late ‘40s in the worlds of Watches and Jewellery, later expanding into the universe of Leather Goods. Over the decades, the icon successfully interpreted the spirit of every age, becoming a symbol of female empowerment from generation to generation.
As a fascinating emblem rich in cultural connotations, it also reached the world of art, an inexhaustible source of inspiration and a field of creative experimentation for Bulgari. The encounter of the snake and art gave birth to extraordinary synergies, such as the Serpenti by Refik Anadol exhibition, which will continue its journey at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid, in February 2023. In the wake of this mutual creative exchange, a new series of collaborations between Bulgari and some visionary artists of our century will be unveiled within the framework of the 75th Anniversary celebrations.
“For 75 years Bulgari has shown its audacious creativity, ingenious craftsmanship and modern spirit through its emblematic Serpenti creations inspired by the jewels of Cleopatra, in a Rome of more than 2000 years ago. They convey endless tales, artistry and empowerment. It expanded the boundaries of jewellery, reflecting the spirit of confident women and entering the world of art through exciting creative collaborations. It was and is the ultimate Bulgari icon of endless metamorphosis.” commented Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of the Bulgari Group.
As a celebratory year, 2023 will write an exciting new chapter in a story of ongoing change, where inspiration turns into art and legacy into future. A story without an end, only perpetual transformation. This is the infinite tale of Serpenti.
FROM MYTH TO ICON
The legend of Serpenti begins long before the mythical animal entered the prestigious realm of jewellery. Deeply rooted in the history of humanity, the snake captured the imagination from East to West and through the millennia. In Greek and Roman mythology, it was believed to possess transformative and regenerative powers for its ability to shed its skin. This universal energy in constant renewal was symbolically represented by the ouroboros, the symbol for a snake biting its tail to form an infinite circle without beginning or end.
Its ever-shifting nature and eternal spirit have been a leitmotif of Bulgari’s snake icon since its earliest origins in 1948, when the first Serpenti creations made their debut as jewellery-watches to be wrapped around the wrist. At that time Serpenti was more stylised: its linked body was crafted employing the ingenious Tubogas technique, coupling masterful goldsmithing with the innate suppleness of the icon. The industrial-inspired flexible tubular band of precious metal, obtained without soldering, was an expression of Bulgari’s spirit of innovation and therefore naturally suited to Serpenti's future-oriented identity.
In the 50s, the Bulgari serpent began to move towards a more figurative style, with a precious head embellished with ruby, emerald or diamond eyes. This was an evolution that culminated in the 60s when the snake’s livery turned into a canvas for creative experimentation and its alluring scales were articulated with the help of gemstones and coloured enamels. It was in these inventive years that the Maison created the first Serpenti secret jewellery-watches, featuring a dial concealed by the head.
The striking colour combinations and unconventional materials introduced in those years were emblematic of Bulgari’s legendary style, while the masterfully hand-applied enamels and gemstones, as well as the flexible tubular scales, inventively connected to a supple inner core, proved how Serpenti’s evolution was deeply intertwined with Bulgari’s unique artistry as a master jeweller.
Evolving from one mesmerizing form to the next, the serpent has also offered stunning interpretations of its hexagonal scale motif, various levels of preciousness and unique combinations of exquisite gems, captivating design and creative craftsmanship.
From heritage pieces to the sleek, ultra-contemporary, stylized Serpenti Viper we know today, the icon remains forever an emblem of audacious transformations – always ready to reveal a new move or to take a hypnotic new form.
“Reinterpreting Serpenti sign over and over without changing its identity is an inspiring challenge.” said Lucia Silvestri, Bulgari’s Jewellery Creative Director. “It is this perfect balance between its heritage and creativity evolution that has made the icon truly timeless and always in step with the times.”
THE BULGARI SERPENTI 75 YEARS OF INFINITE TALES CAMPAIGN
A journey through 75 years of style, creativity and captivating metamorphosis, the Bulgari Serpenti 75 Years of Infinite Tales campaign showcases the unstoppable evolution of the icon through an entrancing story reel. In a timeline spanning from the first Serpenti secret- watches and colourful creations of the 60’s to today’s cutting-edge Viper renditions, the campaign illustrates the idea of metamorphosis behind each Serpenti iteration.
Intertwined with the feminine universe like no other icon, the Bulgari serpent is captured by the lenses of Scandebergs photography duo, as it sinuously coils around women of different eras, wrapping around their skin until they become one. A stylistic metamorphosis, it represents the evolution of women and their self-determination.
In an enthralling play of sinuous lines and sensual moves, the evocative aesthetics of the campaign conjure the supple body of Bulgari’s Serpenti creations in every detail, from the feminine silhouettes to the charming ways the jewels are worn.
As the jeweller of extraordinary women, Bulgari has always drawn inspiration from the charisma of its muses, crafting empowering pieces that celebrate an expressive personality and audacious mindset.
In the last 75 years, women have affirmed the right to be independent, cultivate their talents, pursue their dreams and live a life in line with their desires. From the red carpet to the office, Serpenti has been their faithful ally, evolving side by side with charismatic women who own their magnetic charm.
Acclaimed by style legend Diana Vreeland as well as by Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor, the Bulgari serpent has seduced some of the world’s most famous icons of all times, from Marisa Berenson to Charlize Theron, Alicia Vikander, Naomi Campbell and Zendaya, in a perpetual movement towards the future.
THE SERPENTI FACTORY
From painting to photography, fashion and design, the snake has always been a prominent fixture in art. Among the countless interpretations, the serpent animates the works of Depero, Miró and Paul Klee, it appears on the design objects by the dreamy Fornasetti and it gives title to many films by acclaimed directors. Ironic and playful exponents of contemporary art such as Alexander Calder, Niki de Saint Phalle, Keith Haring and Joana Vasconcelos delivered their very own interpretation of the mythical animal alongside photographers such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Avedon and Helmut Newton, who focused on the animal’s seductive and transformative powers.
In keeping with this legacy, Bulgari launches the Serpenti Factory, an artistic initiative focussing on the snake as an endless source of creative production, drawing on the imagery of the icon to discover how the inspirations, symbols, techniques and archives of the Maison continue to influence the inexhaustible creativity and craftsmanship of Serpenti.
The Serpenti Factory embraces many territories which are part of the icon’s identity, from heritage to craftsmanship, from multisensory technologies to the new campaign celebrating the 75th anniversary of the icon connecting past, present and future.
The project includes a series of special collaborations between Bulgari and international contemporary artists such as Refik Anadol, Davide Quayola, Daniel Rozin, Sougwen Chung and Cate M who have specially developed exclusive artworks dedicated to Serpenti to show the eclectic nature of the icon.
Throughout the year Serpenti Factories spread across the world will feature the work of local artists.
From China to the United States, and throughout Europe, each stage of this journey will introduce a new metamorphosis of Serpenti, once more elevating the symbol’s timeless fascination and magnetism into a true form of art.
SERPENTI BY REFIK ANADOL TAKES MADRID
From Milan’s central Piazza Duomo to London’s famed Saatchi Gallery, Serpenti by Refik Anadol has touched down at some of Europe’s most iconic art destinations, and now inaugurates a new chapter at the prestigious Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid.
Open to the public from February 17, the exhibition will represent a highlight of Serpenti’s 75th Anniversary, kicking off the celebration year and charting the icon’s metamorphosis from its inception in 1948 into the future through the power of machine learning.
Born from an innovative combination of art and technology, the installation is a multimedia artwork generated by artificial intelligence and resulting from algorithms trained with 200 million images of nature. Interpreting the concept of metamorphosis as the change from one form to another, the award-winning media artist and director Anadol transforms nature into data and data into abstract, poetic images.
The immersive experience combines the installation with a curated selection of Serpenti creations from the Bulgari Heritage collection as well as the Maison’s historical archives, while a fragrance developed by artificial intelligence, named Rainforest Serpenti, permeates the immersive room of the installation for a multi-sensory journey.
On the same occasion, a one-of-a-kind Serpenti High Jewellery necklace with matching earrings, exclusively created for the anniversary, will be unveiled. Named Serpenti Blue Heaven for the celestial colours of its tanzanite and aquamarine layout, it evokes Roman and Spanish skies. The creation represents a fascinating new chapter in the history of this collection, metaphorically displays an embrace between the two countries. The legend of Serpenti is rendered through Bulgari’s visionary craftsmanship and gemstone artistry in a new tale of wonder.
The exhibition takes place at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid, from February 17 to April 16.