ARTISTIC LUXURY – Fabergé, Tiffany, and Lalique

At the Legion of Honor through May 31st

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

At the end of the 19th century, three workshops in New York, Paris and St. Petersburg were preparing the final touches on spectacular examples of decorative objects and jewelry for an event with global implications. The Paris International Exposition opened on Sunday, April 15th, 1900. Until it closed seven months later on November 12th, the grand event was attended by over 50 million visitors. Selected works of three artists – Peter Carl Fabergé, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Rene Lalique – were exhibited at the same venue for the first and only time. ARTISTIC LUXURY: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique returns to that historic moment and explores the master techniques and artistry of the three prominent designers – and the rivalry between them. The exhibition is organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and will be on view until May 31st at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

1900 Paris International Exposition. The Grand Entrance.

1900 Paris International Exposition. The Grand Entrance.

PETER CARL FABERGÉ

PETER CARL FABERGÉ, 1846–1920.

ARTISTIC LUXURY: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique brings together nearly 250 objects from more than 40 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, Berlin, Hamburg, and across the United States. Highlights from the exhibition include seven Easter eggs by Fabergé, such as the Imperial Blue Serpent Egg Clock owned by Princess Grace of Monaco, one rare Imperial Easter egg by Cartier, and the Imperial Basket of Flowers by Fabergé, as well as bibelots and jewelry designed for the Russian Tsars and their family and later sold by the Bolsheviks

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Imperial Blue Serpent Egg (1887)
Basket of Flowers (1896). House of Fabergé.

Charles Lewis Tiffany, 1812 to 1902 and Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1848 to 1933

Charles Lewis Tiffany, 1812–1902
Louis Comfort Tiffany, 1848–1933

Making its debut in the United States is 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 only recently has been exhibited in Russia. Also included are major examples of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Favrile glass, including vases and a large selection of his incomparable glass lamps, and a spectacular array of jewelry featuring diamonds and rare gemstones by Tiffany & Co.

MAGNOLIA WINDOW. Lead, stained glass, 1900. AUTUMN LEAF GLOBE LAMP. Favrile glass, bronze. Tiffany Studios.

MAGNOLIA WINDOW. Lead, stained glass, 1900.
AUTUMN LEAF GLOBE LAMP. Favrile glass, bronze.
Tiffany Studios.

Contributions from René Lalique include a pair of stylized bronze sculptures depicting women metamorphosing into butterflies that decorated Lalique’s booth at the 1900 Exposition. The visitors marveled at extraordinary Art Nouveau designs for artistic jewelry incorporating stylized insects and birds, plant forms, mythical creatures, and idealized female figures. Lalique’s glass will also be featured, including his Frogs and Lily Pads Vase.

Cattleya Orchid Hair Ornament. Lalique

Cattleya Orchid Hair Ornament. Lalique.

POPPY NECKLACE. René Lalique. Patinated glass, enamel, gold, rose cut diamonds, 1900 to 1903.

POPPY NECKLACE. René Lalique. Patinated glass, enamel, gold, rose cut diamonds, 1900-1903.

ARTISTIC LUXURY takes a critical look at the development, design, and marketing of each artist and explores how Fabergé, Tiffany, and Lalique responded to the demand for luxury decorative objects at the turn of the 20th century. Although all three designers competed for the same commissions and customers – royalty, political leaders, actors, and captains of industry, each was known for his own characteristic style, which will be displayed through separate galleries devoted to each designer. In the end, the three artists were united by a common purpose: to elevate the mundane object (umbrella handles, lamps, inkwells, etc.) into the most luxurious and artistic creations imaginable for their illustrious clientele. Their work became the ultimate status symbol of the Gilded Age.

RENÉ LALIQUE, 1860 to 1945

RENÉ LALIQUE, 1860–1945

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. Tiffany had the broadest range of customers and gained a reputation for providing the most extraordinary objects of personal adornment. Lalique pushed the boundaries of his artistry towards the avant-garde and attracted the patronage of influential members of the artistic and literary circles. All three are credited with the elevation of indigenous multi-colored gemstones, in contrast to the profusion of white diamonds and pearls favored by the world’s aristocracy. Likewise, the use of humble materials such as horn, ivory, glass and hard stones enabled the designers to spotlight their natural colorations and concentrate on the sculptural possibilities inherent in the material.

VASE GRENOUILLES ET NENOUPHARS (Frogs and Lillypads). René Lalique.

VASE GRENOUILLES ET NENOUPHARS (Frogs and Lillypads). René Lalique

Accompanying the exhibition is an extraordinary catalog by Stephen Harrison, Emmanuel Ducamp and Jeannine Falino with contributions by Christie Mayer Lefkowith, Pilar Velez, Catherine Walworth and Wilfried Zeisler (Cleveland Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2008). Click here to order on-line: ARTISTIC LUXURY: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique

Expand your Video Library with an intriguing documentary from A&E. “Treasures – The Czar’s Faberge Eggs” presents the incredible story of the Imperial Russian family’s fabulous collection. Curators and experts reveal the amazing features that make each egg a masterpiece while historians explain how the waning years of Russian royalty can be traced through the eggs’ changing themes. Click here to order on-line: . THE CZAR’S FABERGE EGGS

ARTISTIC LUXURY, Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique and DVD, The Czar's Faberge Eggs

ARTISTIC LUXURY, Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique
DVD, The Czar’s Faberge Eggs

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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