Saturday 21 July 2018

Behold, Beautiful Things

The Cartier Exhibition Catalogue
It may come as no surprise to learn that Beautiful Things gladden the heart of the Pipistrello household. As our nation's capital was playing host to this luscious exhibition, Mr. P., the Effervescent R and I could not help but take a day trip in the winter sunshine last week to see for ourselves. As we none of us are Royalty, nor Patrons of the House of Cartier, to get up close and personal with gems and artwork that until now have only been familiar through the joys of Pinterest was a rare opportunity, and well worth six hours in the car - thank you again for driving, R!

The exhibition travels through three-quarters of a century of jewel artistry, showcasing through magnificent examples the development of Cartier's diamond and platinum garland style in the Art Nouveau period, the shift toward more abstract styles in the 1920s and 30s and the inspiration of the exotic finds coming out of Egypt and The Middle & Far East finding expression in the embrace of colourful stones and larger and flashier settings. Alongside, there were examples of the new wristwatch, Mystery clocks and smoking accessories, nécessaires and bibelots.

Some of these glorious objects were shown with accompanying paintings and costumes, Cartier's design drawings & ephemera, which were in themselves a beautiful adjunct to the jewellery and objets. It had been well-publicised that Queen Elizabeth II (a.k.a. "ER" in cryptic crossword circles) loaned an unprecedented number of her gems for this exhibition, but so did other Princely Houses and private collectors and I'm pleased to report that the owners of these treasures are evidently in possession of Very Good Taste. However, the highest praise is reserved for the master jewellers at Cartier for their incredible skill at transforming the earth's raw materials into such Beautiful Things.

Behold, a selection*, in no particular order:

Barbara Hutton and her Jadeite Necklace, for which
The Cartier Collection paid US$27M

Bejewelled and BeMOPed Vanity Cases,
So Nécessaire

Onyx Accents Chinoiserie & Panthers

The Maharaja of Patiala Gussied Up

Philip de László's Portrait of Queen Marie of Romania, 1924
Wearing this 478 carat Sapphire Pendant

Nouveau Guilloche and the Divine Deco Combination of Turquoise & Lapis Lazuli

Glorious Cabochon and Crystal Brooches

Mad for Tutti Frutti

Art Nouveau Garland Style Tiaras,
Pinterest Staples

Mystery Clock Magnificence

Something For The Gentlemen

William Dargie's Portrait of ER II, Our Wattle Queen, 1954
Wearing her Nizam of Hyderabad Necklace

Art Deco Egyptomania puts those archaeological finds to use 

* My exhibition photographs were v. disappointing so, at the risk of copyright infringement, I've relied upon Margaret Young-Sánchez's gorgeous NGA publication.


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