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Visitors to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City this fall will be treated to a dazzling display of 230 precious adornments dating from 2600 B.C.E. to the present day. Titled “Jewelry: The Body Transformed,” the exhibition explores from a historical perspective “how jewelry acts upon and activates the body it adorns.” The 15-week installation opens November 12.
Drawn almost exclusively from The Met collection, the jewelry includes headdresses, ear ornaments, brooches, belts, necklaces and rings. Many of the exhibits utilize sculptures, paintings, prints and photographs to enrich and amplify the many stories of transformation that jewelry tells.
“Throughout history and across cultures, jewelry has served as an extension and amplification of the body, accentuating it, enhancing it, distorting it and, ultimately, transforming it,” notes the MET’s press release. “Jewelry is an essential feature in the acts that make us human, be they rituals of marriage or death, celebrations or battles. At every turn, it expresses some of our highest aspirations.”
The exhibition will open with a dramatic display that emphasizes the universality of jewelry. This part of the exhibit unites great jewelry from around the world, organized according to the part of the body they adorn: head and hair; nose, lips and ears; neck and chest; arms and hands; and waist, ankles and feet.
The remaining galleries are organized thematically…
• The Divine Body will examine one of the earliest conceptions of jewelry— its link to immortality. Among the items in this gallery is a rare head-to-toe ensemble from ancient Egypt that accompanied the elite into the afterlife. In the image, at top, we see golden sandals and “toe stalls,” which were a burial luxury to protect the delicate extremities of persons of status and royalty.
• The Regal Body will look at the use of jewelry throughout history to assert rank and status.
• The Transcendent Body will celebrate jewelry’s power to conjure spirits, appease gods and evoke ancestors.
• The Alluring Body will explore how jewelry engenders romance and desire.
• The Resplendent Body will focus on elegant jewelry designed strictly for luxury and opulent adornment.
The exhibition, which is being made possible by Albion Art Co., Ltd., is set to run from November 12 to February 24, 2019, at The Met Fifth Avenue.
Credits: All jewelry images courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art Newsroom. From top: Sandals and toe stalls. New Kingdom. Dynasty 18, reign of Thutmose III (ca. 1479–1425 B.C.). Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Wadi Gabbanat el-Qurud, Wadi D, Tomb of the Three Foreign Wives of Thutmose III. Gold; sandals: L. 10 3/8 x W. 4 in. (L. 26.4 x W. 10 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1922 (26.8.148a, b; 26.8.185–189, .193–.194, .198–.199); Jeweled bracelets, 500–700. Byzantium. Gold, silver, pearls, amethyst, sapphire, glass, quartz, overall: 1 1/2 x 3 1/4 in. (3.8 x 8.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917 (17.190.1670–1671); Pair of gold earrings with Ganymede and the eagle, ca. 330–300 B.C. Greek. Gold, total H. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1937 (37.11.9, .10); Large brooch with spirals, 1200–800 B.C. Bronze Age. Eastern Europe. Bronze, 11 x 4 x 2 5/8 in. (27.8 x 10.2 x 6.5cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, Caroline Howard Hyman Gift, in memory of Margaret English Frazer, 2000 (2000.281.2); Metropolitan Museum of Art by Kai Pilger [CC BY-SA 4.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons.
Cheryl Burchell Goldsmiths