Bulgari Serpenti: 75 Years of Seductive, Enigmatic Transformation

by Susanah Cheok

Italian luxury marque, Bulgari, celebrates nearly a century of capturing hearts and imaginations through the infinite, inimitable magnetism and beauty of the Serpenti icon, in haute jewellery, horology, and art.

A thing of true beauty and power will always stand the test of time. Its splendour grows from strength to strength, through change, evolution, transformation, while all the time mesmerising and charming its admirers, without losing its mystery and while still staying immutable.

Such has been the force of Bulgari’s sensuous symbol, Serpenti, which celebrates its 75th anniversary as one of the brand’s most iconic emblems.

Endless Tales

Since Bulgari’s Serpenti began in the late ‘40s in the worlds of watches and jewellery, and later in leather goods, it has gone through endless metamorphosis, but its appeal remains unchanged. Through each creative transformation, Serpenti stays steadfast to its original essence.

In history and art, Greek and Roman mythologies, the serpent has had innumerable connotations: serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. As a snake biting its tail to form an infinite circle without beginning or end, the ouroboros is a symbol of eternity and continual renewal of life, universal energy in constant renewal. The snake and serpent have also been a mark of irresistible beauty and charm, and even of guardianship in certain cultures and beliefs.

Says Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of the Bulgari Group, “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.”

Serpenti Metamorphosis

In 1948, when the first Serpenti creations debuted as jewellery-watches to be worn wrapped around the wrist, Bulgari’s Serpenti was 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.

A decade later, Bulgari’s Serpenti made graceful moves 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 brilliance of gemstones and coloured enamels. It was in these inventive, glamorous years that Bulgari imagined and brought to fruition, the first Serpenti secret jewellery-watches, featuring a dial concealed by the serpent’s head. Exuberant colour combinations and artful choices in gemstones gave way to masterfully hand-applied enamels and high baubles, as well as the flexible tubular scales, all of which Maison Bulgari – as a unique master jeweller, with an innovative artistry – is so lauded and famous for.

True to form, yet never the same and elusively changing, Bulgari’s Serpenti is always ready to reveal a novel move or to take a hypnotic, refreshing form, whether as heritage pieces, or as the sleek, ultra-contemporary, stylised Serpenti viper we know today.

That is why, says Lucia Silvestri, Bulgari’s Jewellery Creative Director, “Reinterpreting Serpenti over and over without changing its identity is an inspiring challenge. It is this perfect balance between heritage and creativity that has made the icon truly timeless and always in step with the times.”

Extraordinary Muses

As the jeweller of extraordinary women, Bulgari has always drawn inspiration from expressive female personalities of audacity and empowerment. Women as acclaimed and strong as style legend Diana Vreeland, as well as Hollywood icons such as Elizabeth Taylor, stars making waves through the years like Marisa Berenson, Charlize Theron, Alicia Vikander, and bold beauties Naomi Campbell and Zendaya, all of whom are in a perpetual movement towards the future.

Sexy, Sinuous Campaign

The Bulgari Serpenti 75 years of Infinite Tales campaign is a journey through 75 years of style, creativity and captivating metamorphosis. It 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 ’60s, to today’s ultra-modern cutting-edge viper renditions, the campaign illustrates the idea of metamorphosis behind each Serpenti iteration.

The Bulgari serpenti is captured by the lenses of the Scandebergs duo of Stefano Colombini and Alberto Albanese, as it sinuously coils around women of different eras, wrapping their skin until women and serpent are 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.

Audacious Art

From painting to photography, fashion and design, the snake has always been a prominent fixture in art. In keeping with this legacy, Bulgari launches the Serpenti Factory, an artistic initiative focusing 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 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 reveal the eclectic nature of the icon.

In particular, the Serpenti by Refik Anadol exhibition, which will continue its journey at the Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum in Madrid, from February 17 to April 16, will be unveiled as part of the 75th Anniversary celebrations.

The magnificent installation is a multimedia artwork generated by artificial intelligence and resulting from algorithms trained with 200 million images of nature. Through it, 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.

Images courtesy of Bulgari, artwork by Curatedition. All rights reserved.

Related Links:

Bulgari: Bejewelled Time

Bulgari: Modern Minimalism

Bvlgari: New Interpretations of the Serpenti

Bvlgari: SerpentiForm

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