Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cummer Display Examines How French History Lives in Jewelry

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cummer Display Examines How French History Lives in Jewelry

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

As becomes clear while touring "Bijoux Parisiens: French Jewelry from the Petit Palais, Paris," a new exhibit at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, French history has often impacted French taste in jewelry.

The exhibit, which continues through Jan. 7, features more than 100 works of jewelry, drawings, fashion prints, paintings and photographs that help illuminate the intersection of French history, art and fashion.

"Jewelry - from design to execution - is a creative art form with a unique history," said Holly Keris, chief operating officer and chief curator of the Cummer. "The exhibition traces this rich history through fine works of art, including design drawings and stellar pieces of jewelry, from before the time of Louis XIV (reigned 1643-1715) through World War II. It's going to be a showstopper."

The jewelry and other items come from the Petit Palais in Paris, which was built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle and now houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts (Muse des beaux-arts de la ville de Paris).

The exhibit is organized chronologically, with the oldest item on display an oval pocket watch that dates to about 16oo.

"Throughout history, jewelry has served both functional and decorative purposes, reflecting its patron's status and taste, as well as the social, political, and economic circumstances of its creation," a text panel drawn from the exhibit catalog explains.

During the 17th century, when French King Louis XIV was acquiring large, extravagant gems, French jewelers gained access to stones from Persia and India.

In reaction to the prevailing Baroque style, the jewelers began developing the more jocular, graceful Rococo style, according to a text panel. Among Europeans, French designs were considered the epitome of style and elegance.

The French Revolution that began in 1789 changed that.

"Prudent aristocrats hid their jewelry, which was seen as a reflection of privilege and excess," a text panel says.

But then Napoleon Bonaparte emerged from the power struggle following the revolution and eventually crowned himself emperor in 1804.

"He loved luscious things," said Nelda Damiano, the Cummer's associate curator.

Napoleon looked to the Roman Empire as a model for what he hoped to achieve and made Neoclassicism a prevailing artistic style. Following his defeat in 1814 and 1815, open display of jewelry again went into decline.

Following a revolution in 1848, Louis-Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon I, seized power and became Emperor Napoleon III, a text panel says. …

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