In tough economic times, everyone needs a little dose of glitz and glamour. Visitors are flocking to see the dazzle on display at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco, where an exhibit called “Cartier and America” showcases precious pieces the French jeweler made for America’s mega-rich. Museum curator Martin Chapman shows off a grand — and enormous — pendant brooch that belonged to Marjorie Merriweather Post, the Post cereal heiress. A portrait hanging in her Washington, D.C., estate, Hillwood, shows her wearing this brooch — an 8-inch cascade of diamond and green glitter. “Some said she must have had a shoulder strap of iron to hold this up because it’s an enormous object made of seven carved Indian emeralds,” Chapman explains. – from NPR
Cartier and America covers the history of the House of Cartier from its first great successes as the “king of jewelers and jeweler to kings” during the Belle Epoque through to the 1960s and 1970s, when Cartier supplied celebrities of the day with their jewels and luxury accessories. Derived mainly from the private Cartier Collection housed in Geneva, the spectacular array of more than 300 objects includes jewelry of the Gilded Age and Art Deco periods, as well as freestanding works of art such as the famous Mystery Clocks. With an extensive variety of jewelry forms—ranging from traditional white diamond suites to the highly colored exotic creations of the 1920s and 1930s—Cartier made its mark with the ingenuity of its designs and its exquisite craftsmanship. The exhibition, open December 19, 2009, to April 18, 2010, is exclusive to the Legion of Honor.
Marking Cartier’s 100 years in the United States, the exhibition concentrates on pieces owned by Americans, including a pair of rock crystal and diamond bracelets worn by Gloria Swanson in the movie Sunset Boulevard, Daisy Fellowes’s famous “Tutti Frutti” necklace, and the exotic flamingo brooch made for the Duchess of Windsor. Private lenders in the United States and France have contributed significant pieces to the exhibition. For the first time, an American museum will feature the personal jewelry of Princess Grace of Monaco from the time of her wedding to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, in 1956. These, generously lent by H.S.H. Prince Albert II, include her engagement ring—a 10.47-carat emerald-cut diamond set with two baguette diamonds mounted in platinum––a grand diamond necklace, and more informal gold brooches in the form of birds. The Lindemann Collection of Palm Beach is sharing some of its incomparable clocks, and the Hillwood Museum in Washington, D.C., is lending jewelry made for cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, a longtime Cartier patron. Post’s brooch, one of the most spectacular pieces of jewelry made in the 1920s, incorporates Indian carved emeralds, one of which dates from the Mughal era.
Exhibition curator Martin Chapman declares, “This is a great opportunity to see some of the finest pieces of jewelry, clocks, and works of art by the legendary firm of Cartier—made for Americans or made in America.”
In the exhibition catalogue, author and curator Martin Chapman offers an in-depth exploration of how Cartier conquered America, tracing compelling connections with key patrons. The publication, titled Cartier and America, features numerous commissions for American “royalty,” Hollywood stars, and heiresses. American notables who famously collected Cartier include Marion Davies, Mrs. Cole Porter, Mary Pickford, Barbara Hutton, and Elizabeth Taylor. The catalogue presents images of significant objects complemented, whenever possible, with archival photographs showing the celebrities with their jewels. It will be available in the Museum Store in December 2009. A self-guided audio tour produced by Discovery Audio will be available in the exhibition.
Cartier in America is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in partnership with Cartier. The major patron is Lonna Wais. Dr. Alan R. Malouf is sponsor. The official airline is Emirates.
Visiting the Legion of Honor
The Legion of Honor displays a collection spanning more than 4,000 years of ancient and European art and houses the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in a neoclassical building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Address: Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street
San Francisco, CA 94121, 415.750.3600
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday, 9:30 am–5:15 pm; closed on Monday
Admission: $10 adults; $7 seniors; $6 youths 13–17 and students with college I.D. Members and children 12 and under are free. General admission is free the first Tuesday of every month $10 special exhibition surcharge for Cartier and America
Alex has written for Vanity Fair, Barrons, Bloomberg and Condé Nast Traveler.