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Museum of the City of New York to Open Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery, 11/13

Museum of the City of New York to Open Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery, 11/13

On Wednesday, November 13th, 2013, the Museum of the City of New York will unveil the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery. Its design and construction were made possible by the Tiffany & Co. Foundation, demonstrating their continuous commitment to the arts through the creation of distinctive gallery spaces in leading museums.

The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery and the installation of its inaugural exhibition Gilded New York, are designed by New York-based William T. Georgis Architects. The jewel-box gallery located on the City Museum's third floor will feature newly constructed, state-of-the-art display cases that evoke a Gilded Age domestic interior finished with herringbone wood flooring, decorative wallpaper, mirrored window shutters, draperies, as well as a historic chandelier and fireplace mantel from the Museum's collections. An elegant space, the Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery beautifully complements the Museum's Georgian Revival design.

[The Museum will hold a media preview on Tuesday, November 12th from 1 to 3 PM. Media wishing to attend should contact Justyna Zajac at jzajac(at)mcny(dot)org, 917-492-3480.]

Gilded New York will be on view from November 13, 2013 to November 30, 2014 and is a vivid exploration of the city's visual culture at the end of the 19th century, when its elite class expressed their high status through extravagant fashions, jewelry, and decorative arts. Although often derided for its excess, the Gilded Age was also notable for its national aspirations in the arts and design. During these years, the United States-and its cultural capital, New York City-achieved a new level of sophistication in painting, sculpture, architecture, and the decorative arts, enabling the nation to compete for the first time on a world stage and giving rise to a golden age that was worthy of the name "American Renaissance."

Highlights of Gilded New York include:

  • A Tiffany & Co. diamond tiara created for the 1894 wedding of Julia Kemp, the daughter of pharmaceutical magnate George Kemp.
  • The "Rehan Jewel," named for then-famous stage actress Ada Rehan and made around 1900 by the New York firm Marcus & Co. Fashioned as a cluster of translucent morning glories, it is fabricated in gold with plique-à-jour enamel.
  • An impressive collection of silver objects, many by Tiffany & Co, including an 1889 presentation bowl awarded by the New York Yacht Club and a pair of candelabras in the company's celebrated Chrysanthemum design pattern.
  • Decorative objects for the fashionable home: a gilt bronze annular clock by leading French designer Eugene Bazart; ceramics by Brooklyn-based Union Porcelain Works, and a gilded side chair by Herter Brothers
  • A diamond-and-emerald brooch worn by Metropolitan Opera soprano Emma Eames.
  • Luxury items targeted to fashionable men: a Marcus & Co. enameled pocket watch with sapphire fob, an ebony-and-silver dresser set that belonged to John D. Rockefeller, a Tiffany & Co. enameled gold locket given by William Backhouse Astor to his guests as a souvenir of his yacht, and a set of mother-of-pearl buttons with engraved hunting scenes.
  • Accessories that sat on a woman's dressing table or completed her fashionable ensemble: an engraved glass flask in the shape of a swan's head sold by the New York firm of Theodore B. Starr; an evening fan of eagle feathers with a tortoise shell frame, a silver purse handle ornamented with mermaids designed by the recently re-discovered New York jeweler F.W. Lawrence, and a silver cigarette case set with sapphires by Tiffany & Co. shown at the famous 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
  • American and French oil paintings of the era's leading social and financial figures, including portraits of Cornelia Ward Hall and her children by Michele Gordigiani, Mrs. DeLancey Iselin Kane by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, and Louisa Van Rensselaer Baylies by Carolus-Duran.
  • Objects purchased by wealthy New Yorkers on their "Grand Tours" of Europe: intricate micromosaic jewelry, Venetian glass, and British ceramics.

Overview of the Exhibition

Fashion

Fashionable outfits and accessories were a highly visible marker of wealth as changing styles demanded frequent and vast expenditures of funds to stay abreast of current trends. Paris couturier Charles Frederick Worth, whose "Electric Light" fancy dress gown was worn by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II to the Vanderbilt Ball, was in great demand among New York's leading families. Worth's stunning scarlet silk damask evening dress in chrysanthemum pattern, also showcased in the exhibition, is another example of the trend towards a glamorous look. Meanwhile, Manhattan shops provided a wealth of Parisian-inspired goods, including extraordinary ostrich, and eagle feather fans; a cigarette case adorned with sapphires; and a gold-and-diamond card case, which were the mainstays of an upper-class lady's public costume and will be included in the exhibition. With the advent of what became known as "Ladies' Mile," fashion-conscious elite and middle class women were drawn to an expanse of densely packed department stores in Manhattan, delimited by 14th Street and 23rd Street on the north and south axis, and between Broadway and Sixth Avenue along the east and west. This well-lit shopping district enabled women to walk on the street unaccompanied by chaperones, where they could study and purchase the latest designs displayed behind modern, plate-glass windows.

Jewelry

Complementing the increasing opulence in fashion, jewelry design reached new and dazzling heights during the Gilded Age. For decades, Americans on their European Grand Tours had purchased archeological-style jewelry popularized by designers like Italian Fortunato Pio Castellani and his son, Alessandro, but by the 1890s, they began to turn toward talented French jewelers like Cartier and others who exhibited at Paris's international expositions. In New York City, the rise of Tiffany & Co., which sold ornaments such as the platinum, diamond, and seed pearl choker on view, helped to make the city an attractive and growing center for luxury jewelry. The fine craftsmanship of jewelers like Marcus & Co., evident in their multi-strand arts and crafts necklace composed of gold, demantoid garnets, natural pearls, and plique-à-jour enamel, contributed to this trend. Other New York jewelers whose work will be seen include those by the firm of Theodore B. Starr as well as Dreicer & Co., whose brilliant gold, platinum, and diamond necklace is also on display.

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