HELEN MUSA’s weekly arts column features opening concerts and shows in Canberra
Selected works from the Cartier Collection were unveiled this morning by image, style and heritage director at Cartier, Pierre Rainero, and NGA director Gerard Vaughan.Dr Vaughan promised that visitors would be transported into a “glittering wonderland” of over 300 masterpieces crafted by the Paris jewellery house, many of them in settings for celebrities like Princess Grace and Elizabeth Taylor, royals like Princess Margaret and Kate Middleton and members of the international jet-set, including the Duchess of Windsor, whose 1940 Flamingo brooch will be on show.
Australia’s greatest celebrity of the 19th and early 20th century, Dame Nellie Melba, he said, had been a client of Cartier and we would get to see her platinum and diamond hairpin and her jewel-encrusted opera glasses.
He said that through the exhibition, organised in association with the Denver Art Museum, visitors would see jewels of spectacular calibre and size, illustrating the changing fashions and jewellery from before the Great War when Cartier was already anticipating the Art Deco movement, into post-war Egyptian-style jewellery and more contemporary iterations, such as a variety of the Maison Cartier’s iconic watch design in a section showing designs for men.
Mr Rainero, backed by film footage of Marilyn Monroe singing a song from “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”, gave this morning’s assembled media a close-up look at some of the precious works.He held up the yellow gold crocodile brooch/necklace/table decoration created in 1975 for Mexican film actress María Félix, to demonstrate how it was “a living animal, everything can move”, explaining that part of it could be replaced with a different part, “so not to damage the skin of the lady when worn”.
A part of Mr Rainero’s portfolio is to look after the priceless period pieces in the Cartier collection and he drew attention to a sapphire-adorned “stomach brooch” from 1907, entirely superseded these days, since it was designed to be attached directly to a lady’s corset.He also showed a “halo” tiara – that is, one intended to be worn vertically – originally made for the Begum Aga Khan, decorated with lotus flowers in the Egyptian revival style and set in the platinum for which Cartier became famous as a pioneer.
Most important, Dr Vaughan said, would be the way the exhibition matched stories of the former wearers to the artworks themselves. From the collection of Queen Elizabeth would come a necklace originally created for the Nizam of Hyderabad, as well as the Queen’s “Halo Tiara”, which she allowed Kate Middleton to wear at her wedding to Prince William.
“Every piece brings with it evocative stories,” he said.
“Cartier: The Exhibition”, National Gallery of Australia, March 30 -22 July 22. Bookings to ticketek.com