Museum of Fine Arts
Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, Massachusetts 02115
Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation Gallery
Past Is Present: Revival Jewelry
Until 19th August 2018
Exploring more than 4,000 years of jewelry history, a new exhibition organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), traces the long-standing tradition of drawing design inspiration from the past—whether by directly copying earlier styles or reinterpreting ancient motifs. Past Is Present: Revival Jewelry includes 80 objects by jewelers such as Castellani, Tiffany & Co., Cartier and Bulgari, ranging from antiquity to today and showing that the revivalist narrative did not end in the early 20th century. In nearly every instance, the design of the ornament highlights the tension between progress and the desire to engage with the past, in both traditional and unexpected ways. Drawn largely from the Museum’s collection and featuring 17 stunning loans from private collections.
Revival jewelry became fashionable in the 19th century, as opportunities for travel increased; archaeological digs unearthed ancient treasures and newly founded museums (including the MFA) and international expositions showcased discoveries from antiquity. Surrounded by this history, jewelers were among the many artists who found inspiration in the myriad of freshly available visual resources, incorporating them into their work. While jewelry from the 19th and early 20th centuries explored many revival styles, the exhibition largely focuses on four: archaeological (inspired by newly excavated art and artifacts), as well as Renaissance, Egyptian and Classical. Additionally, contemporary pieces demonstrate how the revival jewelry tradition continues today as artists are once again drawn back in time, focusing on hands-on craftsmanship and the exploration of timeless themes that first presented themselves hundreds, or, in some cases, thousands of years ago.
Four loans from the Cartier Collection are a highlight of the exhibition. After the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922, Louis Cartier, like many other jewelers at the time, bolstered his collection of ancient artifacts and incorporated them into his work. A 1924 Scarab Brooch, which can be converted into a belt buckle, is paired with a Winged Scarab (740–660 BC) from the MFA’s collection. The 20th-century brooch features gold, platinum and diamonds in addition to ancient faience (glazed ceramic) fragments; and the holes, meant to secure the Egyptian ornament to linen mummy wrappings, have been hidden behind emeralds. A Bracelet (1928) created for composer Cole Porter’s wife Linda integrates a replica of an ancient Eye of Horus—a protective amulet thought to have healing properties—offering another example of Cartier’s celebrated Egyptian revival designs. The Head of Medusa Pendant (1906) and Chimera Bracelet (1929) set with diamonds, meanwhile, draw inspiration from ancient mythology.
Opening hours: Saturday to Tuesday, 10 am–5 pm; and Wednesday to Friday, 10 am–10 pm.