A long-running exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston explores the tradition of revival jewelry inspired by key moments in history.
Monday and Tuesday 10am-5pm; Wednesday-Friday 10am-10pm; Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm.
With more than 80 jewels and objects on show by legendary brands including Tiffany, Cartier, Bulgari and Castellani, Past is Present: Revival Jewelry is a must-visit exhibition if you're in the Boston area.
Hosted in the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery, the exhibition explores the history of drawing design inspiration from the past, a tradition that continues today.
"History fuels the creative imagination," says Emily Stoehrer, Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan, curator of jewelry at the museum. "The dazzling jewels in this exhibition were made by designers who found inspiration in the past - reviving and reinterpreting antique styles for a new age. Today, as technology continues to advance, traditions of the past, from ancient Egypt to the Renaissance, continue to provoke and inspire."
Revival jewelry first became fashionable in the 19th century when travel became more commonplace, precious antiquities were unearthed in archaeological digs and new museums, including the MFA in Boston, exhibited these discoveries.
Four styles of revival jewelry are the focus of the exhibition - archaeological, Renaissance, classical and Egyptian - with the Egyptian revival jewels a real highlight.
Cartier, sponsor of the exhibition, has loaned four pieces from the Cartier Collection inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. Created by Louis Cartier, a Scarab brooch dating from 1924 is set with ancient faience - glazed ceramic - fragments, while a 1928 bracelet, created for composer Cole Porter's wife, features a replica of an ancient Eye of Horus, an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection.
In the second half of the 19th century, in Italy, Castellani, the most famous jeweler in Rome at the time, established itself as the premier retailer of revival jewelry, and several pieces on show capture the past in exquisite detail. A Castellani necklace and brooch feature 15 ancient scarab beetles and colours that were popular in Egyptian art, while a necklace, brooch and earrings in the archaeological revival style show sophisticated granulation metalwork, a technique that was popular in the ancient Etruscan era.
The tradition of placing "confronted animals" facing each other in a symmetrical design is shown perfectly in two pieces that span centuries. An Anatolian bracelet with lion head finials, circa 2400 BC, is contrasted with a 1929 Chimera bracelet by Cartier featuring mythical beasts in the revival style, inspired by Louis Cartier's trips to China and now considered an Art Deco classic.
Many of the pieces on show are from the museum's permanent collection of jewelry, which is regarded as one of the most comprehensive in the world. On display in the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery alongside the Past is Present: Revival Jewelry exhibition - one of the only galleries in the US dedicated solely to jewelry - the collection spans 6,000 years and includes more than 20,000 exhibits, from Neolithic Chinese jade to jewels by 21st-century designers.
Members: free; Adults $25; Seniors: $23; Children 6 and under: free; Youths free weekdays after 3pm, weekends and public holidays, otherwise $10.
The Egyptian revival jewelry on show is world class, with early 20th-century jewels by Cartier and Tiffany displayed alongside ancient pieces, including a winged scarab dating from 740-660 BC.