Showcase of 5,000 Years of Jewelry Comes to Ringling Museum
Sarasota, FL- Jan. 4, 2007 – Exquisite jewelry from 5,000 years of world history and from a vast spectrum of cultures will be featured at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in the exhibition Bedazzled: 5,000 Years of Jewelry from the Walters Art Museum, Feb. 3 through May 27, 2007.
This exhibition along with Encouraging American Genius from the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Feb. 3 – April 29, 2007) opens The Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing. The exhibitions are beautifully showcased within the expanded galleries with contemporary lighting and luxurious hard word floors.
The renowned collection showcases the evolution of techniques and materials in making jewelry from as early as 3,000 B.C. through the early 20thcentury.
The exhibition demonstrates the importance of jewelry as an expression of creativity and often of wealth and position. “Jewelry is an object of culture that has transgressed through centuries and civilizations and has changed meanings and purpose throughout history,” said Ringling Chief Curator, Stephen Borys. “The pieces are aesthetically beautiful with meticulous craftsmanship and striking gems, which elevates them as works of art.”
From Olbia, a Greek colony on the Crimean peninsula in the first century B.C. comes one of the most admired pieces in the collection, a bracelet richly decorated with gold granulation and set with colorful gemstones back with foil. Masterworks of the goldsmith’s art from the early centuries B.C. include a delicate pair of Etruscan spirals from the 7th century, a gold and garnet diadem and a gold, horse-shaped pendant crafted by Greek artisans. Other favorites are two sixth-century A.D. Visigothic fibulas in the form of eagles. These colorful birds are executed in bronze overlaid with gold and set with garnets, mother-of-pearl, crystals and amethysts.
During the Renaissance, there was a revival in production of sumptuous jewelry that utilized the talents of the greatest artists of the period and was sustained by the wealth of royal patrons. Outstanding examples within the collection include pendants incorporating enamel, mounted with pearls and gemstones, and exquisitely detailed gold dress ornaments illustrating the height of 16th-century fashion.
A special focus in the exhibition will be on finger rings throughout history, according the Walters Museum, and as a supplement, important examples have been borrowed from the distinguished collection of the New York gemologist and novelist Benjamin Zucker. Special emphasis will be placed on diamond-set rings as symbols of status, and the technological development of diamond cutting.
In the 18th century, both men and women wore chatelaines, a clasp or hook from which were suspended watches, signet seals and other chatelaines. A very beautiful gold example comes complete with a magnifying glass and a key. In the 19th century, historical revival dominated, and its sequence will be traced beginning with an Austrian Gothic revival bracelet with ogival arches in gold set with carnelian, malachite and other colored stones. Classical revival or archaeological style works from mid-century by both the Castellani firm and Giacinto Melillo will also be featured. True gems from the early 20th century include a fabulous Tiffany corsage in the form of an iris set with 139 Montana sapphires that was shown in the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900, says the Walters Museum, and several bijoux d’art, or art jewels, that the premier Art Nouveau jeweler René Lalique displayed at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. The intriguing questions raised by recent scholarship concerning forgeries and replicas will be explored in the last section of the exhibition.
The jewelry collection to be displayed in the exhibition was assembled primarily by the Walters Museum founder, Henry Walters (1848-1930), during the first three decades of the last century. A detailed catalogue accompanies this exhibition.
The Walters Art Museum is located on Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon cultural district and is one of only a few museums worldwide to present a comprehensive history of art from the third millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. Among its thousands of treasures the Walters holds the finest collection of ivories, jewelry, enamels and bronzes in America and a spectacular reserve of illuminated manuscripts and rare books.
The Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing was inspired by a design approved by John Ringling himself. The wing expands the Ringling Museum’s ability to present major traveling exhibitions. It adds 20,000 square feet of exhibition space, expanding the total Museum gallery space to 122,560 square feet and also providing space to display portions of the permanent collection now relegated to storage.