August 4, 2010

A Gem of an Exhibit

I promised to catch up with sharing my San Francisco trip and one of the highlights was that of seeing the Cartier and America exhibit held at the Legion of Honor Art Museum. For those of you that don't know, San Francisco has two fine art museums and I'll discuss both including their histories in an upcoming post.

Cartier had already made his impression on the royal courts of Europe, but in the 20s and 30s he was faced with creating some of the most important and famous pieces for the American wealthy. This exhibit focused on those pieces made specifically for American patrons.

The cover of the book accompanying the exhibit is an emerald broach owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post. Apparently her daughter, actress Dina Merrill, didn't keep or want the pieces. (just kidding... a lot of the jewelry was donated to the Smithsonian or sold) What I really loved was the audio tour because a member of the board of directors for the Legion of Honor shared her growing up with the Post family and how as as child Mrs. Post allowed her to try on her jewelry to play dress up. Reminiscing of this type was sprinkled in the technical descriptions given by Cartier experts and museum curators. It really gave the exhibit life and made it fun.

These unusual bangle bracelets were owned by movie star Gloria Swanson.

Among the surprising pieces were those created for the Duchess of Windsor (she was an American remember, Wallis Simpson). This Flamingo brooch was featured twice. The original one was in the first gallery, then later on, a reproduction, commissioned by the woman who did not win the pin during the famous auction of Wallis Simpson's jewelry. (Cartier keeps all of the drawings/specifications for all of their work).

Another stunning example was the wedding jewelry of Princess Grace of Monaco. This was the first time her jewelry has appeared outside of Monaco since her death. Alongside this necklace shown above, was her wedding ring.

A monitor nearby the case showed (in loop) the movie High Society where Grace Kelly wore her own jewelry.

This ruby set is that of Elizabeth Taylor presented to her from Michael Todd. Displayed opposite the Grace Kelly items, these rubies were shown with a home movie of Taylor receiving the gift on boat while on vacation with Todd.

Here are some of my other favorites including a large necklace from the Tuti-Fruti series made up of multi-colored stones.

This is the brooch owned by M. Post described earlier. The Emeralds.. well, I've never seen anything like them. They were literally the size of grapes or larger.

Next time I'll talk about the three museums I visited in more detail, but wanted to share this special exhibit with all of you. Unexpected, it was the one of the best two hours spent in a museum in a long time.