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Read about the “Deceptively Modern” exhibition in Art & Object Magazine.
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Read about the “Deceptively Modern” exhibition in Art & Object Magazine.
ALVR and Vogue’s Jewelry Director, Grace Givens, hosted a cocktail party in celebration of our exhibition, Deceptively Modern Jewelry: 1940s – 1980s. The exclusive viewing included a performance by Singer Clair Khodara. Read more about it and see photos of this delightful evening here.
Katerina Perez previewed our Deceptively Modern exhibition on her blog, featuring a Q&A with ALVR’s Peter Schaffer.
Marion Fasel of The Adventurine posted on Instagram about her sneak peek of ALVR’s upcoming exhibition: “Deceptively Modern Jewelry: 1940s-1980s.” She chose to feature a 1940s sapphire and gold bracelet by Gübelin, which she called “divinely good.” Read more about the exhibition, opening October 23rd and on view until November 15th.
Deceptively Modern Jewelry: 1940s-1980s
An elaborate collection of post-war jewelry featuring Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Mauboussin, Verdura, Pierre Sterlé, Angela Cummings, David Thomas, and Andrew Grima.
October 23 – November 15, 2019
As seen in:
Forbes, “A La Vieille Russie Takes Us On A Jewelry Journey from the Post War Years through The 1980s.”
Katerina Perez, “A La Vieille Russie: Virtual tour around the upcoming ‘Deceptively Modern Jewellery’ exhibition.”
Vogue, “A La Vieille Russie Hosted a Glittering Cocktail Party to Celebrate Its Latest Jewelry Exhibition.”
JCK Magazine, “You Need to See This Antique Jewelry Exhibit ASAP.”
Art & Object, “Legendary Antiques Dealer Exhibits Stunning Mid-Century Jewelry.”
Amy Elliot of JCK Magazine wrote about our exhibition for JCK Magazine.
Beth Bernstein wrote a thoughtful preview in ForbesLife Magazine about our upcoming exhibition:
Over the past several years, Peter Schaffer, Director of A La Vieille Russie has been witnessing a change in the market and he has been building a collection to meet the growing demand. He has curated Deceptively Modern: Jewelry 1940s-1980s, an exhibition sale that highlights dynamic pieces that were designed from the end of WWII through the 1980s. On view from October 23rd through November 15th, the collection features bold statement jewelry by famed designers such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Mauboussin, Gucci, and Angela Cummings, among others.
Our 745 Fifth Avenue galleries are open! Hours available here.
From Kiev to Paris to New York, A La Vieille Russie is once again on the move – but we’re not going very far!
After 56 years at the same address, and 75 years on the same block, we’re excited to be relocating to a new and equally convenient gallery one block south at 745 Fifth Avenue. The bright new space will allow us to continue to showcase our unparalleled collection of rare antique jewelry, Fabergé, decorative arts, and Russian works of art.
In 1933, we first brought the gallery to New York from Paris and Kiev on the heels of war and revolution. This move will be our fourth since opening that storefront as one of Rockefeller Center’s first tenants. We are one of a handful of art and antiques businesses that have remained in the same family for generations, and over the years developed a reputation for scholarship, leadership, and integrity, while stimulating American taste for Russian art. We were instrumental in introducing the work of Russian court jeweler Carl Fabergé to American audiences, in forming major museum collections, and in contributing to the continued strong popularity of the jeweler’s work. Today, A La Vieille Russie continues its tradition of offering unusual and important works of art, with a commitment to friendly and knowledgeable service.
We enjoyed our iconic 781 Fifth Avenue location for over 56 years, where we greeted generations of clients and held groundbreaking exhibitions. Our new location officially opened on December 1st, 2017. In celebration of our new space, we had a special Fabergé exhibition in spring 2018, featuring works lent to Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich, UK for their Royal Fabergé exhibition. In the fall of 2019, we had another exhibition, Deceptively Modern, featuring a collection of jewelry from the 1940s to the 1980s. We continue to participate in The Winter Show, TEFAF, and TEFAF New York Fall.
Please join us as we embark on this new chapter. We look forward to sharing our future with you.
Machine Aesthetic platinum bracelet composed of linked circles, each centered by four modern round brilliant diamonds.
English, ca. 1950
(approx. 3 cts)
Length: 7 1/4 inches
It seems fitting to conclude this Hidden Histories series with a curtain call. Pictured above is a curtain design for the Ballets Russes by Léon Bakst (1866-1924).
The world-renowned artist and theater designer was born Lev Samoilovich Rozenberg in Grodno, Russia (now Hrodna, Belarus) into a lower middle-class Jewish family. His talent emerged early and at age twelve he won a prize in an art contest, which alarmed his parents. Not wishing to fan the artistic flame, they contacted the famous Russian sculptor Mark Antokolsky, hoping he would discourage Bakst’s artistic pursuits. He did nothing of the sort. Instead, convinced of Bakst’s potential, he praised the young artist.
Perhaps Antokolsky saw himself in the young boy, for, in many ways, the two artists had parallel lives. As emerging Jewish artists, they faced similar hurdles on their paths to artistic greatness. Both were part of a Jewish Renaissance in Russia, when Jews began increasingly embracing secular culture and assimilating into modern life. It has been said that Jewish artists in Russia had two options – to either hide or embrace their heritage. As discussed in a previous blog post, Antokolsky managed to straddle both worlds. Bakst, however, as some would argue, appears indifferent to his Jewish roots.
Russian art scholar John Milner said of Bakst’s Jewish identity:
“His Jewishness gave him a skepticism. He didn’t use any Byzantium or Christian themes and nor was he interested in icon painting, which had recently been rediscovered in Russia, because it was Christian oriented. He had a sense of separateness as he did not totally identify with Russian culture.”
Christian art and Bakst’s sense of separateness collided during his enrollment at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts. In 1886, his third year of study, he submitted a Pieta for a competition and scandalously contemporized the subjects by depicting Mary and the disciples as impoverished Jews. He was consequently dismissed from the Academy.
Later, at the time of his exhibition in 1889, he changed his name to a variation of Baxter, his maternal grandmother’s name. It has been suggested that Bakst changed his name to sound less Jewish, making it easier to assimilate and rise socially.
Bakst clearly had a conflicted Jewish identity. Upon marrying a Lutheran woman in 1903, he converted. After his divorce in 1910 he returned to Judaism. This renewal of faith later prompted the addition of a Star of David into his personal letterhead, a change he made in the 1920s.
Regardless of his feelings towards his heritage, Bakst successfully made a name for himself through his art. Famed and lauded for his designs for the internationally renowned Ballets Russes, Bakst revolutionized theater design, elevating it to its own art form. Traditionally, theater design color palettes consisted of pale, pastel hues, but Bakst was not one for tradition.
Bakst received great praise for his use of color in costume design by selecting dizzying hues matching the movement of the dancers. This sense of movement is clearly prevalent throughout his theatrical portfolio, exemplified in this curtain design for the 1924 ballet Istar. Theatrical curtains are the audience’s first introduction to a production, and this example must have created quite a bit of excitement and anticipation for the performance.
The shades of green, blue, and pink may seem like a strange combination, yet together they form a vibrant backdrop. The curtain design captures the vibrancy and movement of the stage, with swirls of color and folds of fabric ready to billow and sway out of the frame. The design is imbued with an Orientalist flavor. European artists took inspiration from the East for centuries, a trend that reached a new height in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. For a Russian artist like Bakst, native to a country which was long conflicted regarding its identity placed between the East and West, Orientalism must have been particularly appealing. Bakst described Orientalism as “the Persian and Russian manner mingled.” The delicate, naturalistic drawings of pomegranates, flowers and white peacocks heightened with gold are drawn in a simplified manner commonly associated with woodblock printing. These motifs are contrasted against a rich cobalt blue ground. The artist’s signature device of rhythmic movement is evidenced in the parting of the curtains on either side to reveal two different exotic patterns at the base, and in the veils, also heightened with gold, billowing from behind the curtain. The majestic birds may have been inspired by the white peacocks which roamed the garden of the Marchesa Casati, known for favoring a parasol of peacock feathers, whom Bakst met on an early visit to Venice with Diaghilev and Nijinsky.
Bakst treated his set and costume drawings like works of art to be placed on a wall. Here at A La Vieille Russie we present such an artwork housed in the plain, wooden frame original to the workshop. The backing board is stamped with C. [?]asamatt/Depositeur Excluse des oeuvres de Leon BAKST/112 Bd Malesherbes, which may have been stamped when the contents of the artist’s studio were sold. The Metropolitan Museum of Art also has a black and white preparatory drawing for the Istar theater curtain in their permanent collection.
Bakst collaborated with the famous Russian ballerina and patron, Ida Rubinstein, to bring Istar to the Paris Opera, where it had its premier on July 10, 1924. It was among his greatest works and his last to reach the stage. By the time that final curtain fell, Bakst accomplished international renown as an innovative theater designer and artist of great talent.
Not only is antique jewelry beautiful and fun to wear, but it also demonstrates a real marriage of artistry, craftsmanship, intrinsic value, and context. Part of the beauty of antique jewelry is that it comes with stories, allowing one to touch the past. Some pieces have incredible provenance, and many pieces have an interesting historical context, much of which we’ve been exploring on the blog. For example, nationalism and Berlin iron, Victorian revival styles, romanticism, science and insect jewelry, the rise of leisure and sporting jewelry, and so much more. Antique jewelry is very much a reflection of time, and therefore needs to be appreciated the same way one appreciates works of art and paintings: you have to learn about it. Since people have been adorning themselves since the beginning of time, there is an antique style for everyone!
On a more personal level, there is an intimacy to antique jewelry. In some families, the only surviving heirlooms are jewelry. Jewelry is valuable and portable, making it more easily transferrable to future generations, and therefore carries irreplaceable sentimental value. There is real power in being able to connect with your ancestors by wearing a piece of jewelry that has been in your family for generations. It is a unique feeling when you slip on a ring and realize you have the same ring size as your great grandmother whom you never met.
Greater thought went into designing antique pieces. Unique stones, selected for their beauty, and symbolism inspired well thought out, one-of-a-kind compositions. Today, stones are often selected for their intrinsic value and standardized for mass produced mounts. That is not to say that there are not exceptions, but even people who do not have an academic knowledge of jewelry can visually understand the difference between antique and modern work. A quick quality test is to turn a piece over, a true work of art will be just as lovely on the reverse. While there are a handful of modern jewelers who are master craftsman, mass production has really replaced handcraft in the industry.
Many of our pieces come from a more formal era, a time very different from how we live today. It is fun to imagine how they were worn then, and even more fun to incorporate them into today’s fashions. The constant evolution of fashion breathes new life into antique jewelry. More often than not we find ourselves in jeans as opposed to ballgowns, but a great piece of jewelry and some confidence looks good with anything!