Rare Works by the Greatest Designers of Jewelry and Luxury Goods united in Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique

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The show, the first comparative study of the work of three of the greatest designers of the 20th century, will be on view October 19, 2008 – January 18, 2009 at CMA before traveling to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

Curated by Stephen Harrison, CMA’s curator of decorative art and design, Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique brings together nearly 300 objects from more than 50 international lenders including Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco, as well as institutions and private lenders in London, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Paris, Lisbon, Berlin, Hamburg, and across the United States. The exhibition reunites works by Peter Carl Fabergé, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and René Lalique that have not been presented together since they were first shown at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, where the designers’ rivalry took center stage.

Exhibit highlights and rarities include:

  • Five Imperial Easter eggs by Fabergé, one Imperial Easter egg by Cartier, and the Imperial Basket of Flowers by Fabergé, all designed for the Russian Tsars and their family and later sold by the Bolsheviks.

  • Debut presentation in the United States of the Magnolia Window by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios. This stained glass window was purchased in Paris in 1901 for the collection of Baron Stieglitz, a close courtier of Tsar Nicholas II in St. Petersburg, and has only recently been exhibited in Russia.

  • Edward VII’s cigarette case, on loan from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

  • 36 Fabergé pieces from CMA’s celebrated collection, a gift from Cleveland’s India Early Minshall.

  • Major examples of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Favrile glass including stained glass and a large selection of his incomparable glass lamps.

  • René Lalique’s extraordinary designs for artistic jewelry incorporating stylized insects and birds, plant forms, mythical creatures, and idealized female figures. Lalique’s renowned glass will also be featured, including an important new CMA acquisition, his Frogs and Lily Pads Vase.

  • Glittering jewelry featuring diamonds and rare gemstones by Tiffany & Co., along with their Ad am’s Vase from the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the star of their booth at the 1900 World’s Fair.

“Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique will be a stunning exhibition and the perfect show to open our new special exhibitions galleries, a major part of our building and renovation project which began in 2005,” said Timothy Rub, CMA director. “This exhibition builds on our commitment to quality, scholarship, and the development of programming that truly engages and educates audiences in Cleveland and throughout the U.S.”

Artistic Luxury will highlight some of the key patrons and society personages of the time and, through the use of archival documentation, will provide visitors with a sense of the spirit of the era. Looking critically at the development, design, and marketing of each artist, the exhibition will explore how Fabergé, Tiffany, and Lalique responded to the demand for luxury goods at the turn of the twentieth century. Although all three designers competed for the same commissions and customers – royalty, political leaders, actors, and barons of industry, amongst other notable figures of the time – each was known for his own characteristic style and achievement, as well as a particular geographical sphere of influence, which will be showcased in this exhibition through separate galleries devoted to each designer. In the end, the three artists were united by a common purpose: to provide the most luxurious and artistic creations to their illustrious clientele. Their work was offered as diplomatic gifts to the ruling class, and became the ultimate status symbol of the Gilded Age. To provide context, the exhibition will also include a variety of works by Cartier, Gorham, and Boucheron, as well as many smaller artistic firms working in Russia, France, and America.

“This exhibition grew out of a desire to study the incredible diversity of work created by designers of luxury goods from the end of the 19th century to the beginning of the First World War and the dynamic competition that resulted,” Stephen Harrison, CMA curator of decorative art and design, said. “Fabergé, Tiffany, and Lalique were the first to market themselves as “artists” and not just mere jewelers or craftsmen. They hoped that by association their work would be considered on the same level of artistic achievement as painting and sculpture.”

The three designers drew inspiration from both historicism, reviving popular motifs from the past, and new currents in design such as Art Nouveau and Modernism. Fabergé, who catered primarily to the tastes of the Russian and British royal families, was the most conservative in design of the three. Lalique pushed the boundaries of his artistry towards the avant-garde and attracted the patronage of influential members of the artistic and literary circles. Tiffany had the broadest range of customers and gained a reputation for providing the most extraordinary objects of personal adornment. All three are credited with the elevation of indigenous multi-colored gemstones, in opposition to the profusion of white diamonds and pearls favored by the world’s aristocracy and those who emulated them. Likewise, the use of humble materials such as horn, tortoise shell, and hard stones enabled the designers to exploit the natural colorations and concentrate on the sculptural possibilities inherent in the material.

Tickets for Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique go on sale this summer. CMA members and children under 5-years enter free. Tickets are $17 for adults, $12 for college students and seniors 65 and over, and $8 for children (6–18 years). Adult group sales tickets are $15 per individual, senior groups are $10 per individual and student groups are $10 per individual with a minimum of 15 to qualify as a group. Tickets can be purchased at the Box Office, by calling 1-888-CMA-0033 or online at www.ClevelandArt.org/tickets. Hours are Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. Closed on Mondays.

Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique is organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art. This exhibition is presented through the generous support of National City. The Cleveland Museum of Art gratefully acknowledges the Citizens of Cuyahoga County for their support through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this exhibition with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans. Generous support for the exhibition catalogue has been provided by a grant from the Tiffany & Co. Foundation. After the close of the show in Cleveland, it will travel to the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

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