Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Legion of Honor

Went out with a friend for coffee and then to see the new show at the Legion of Honor, described as below by the museum:

"Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique is the first comparative study of the work of the three greatest jewelry and decorative arts designers at the turn of the 20th century: Peter Carl Fabergé, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and René Lalique. Their rivalry found its stage at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris—the only exposition where all three showed simultaneously and where the work of each was prominently displayed. Some of their most elaborate designs for the Paris World's Fair are reunited for the first time in a gallery recreating the ambiance of this opulent international exposition. Looking critically at the development, design, and marketing of each firm, this exhibition explores how these designers responded to the demand for luxury goods in the years leading up to World War I."

In my opinion this show is far better mounted and better lighted than the usual traveling show at the Legion, with a cohesive theme and marvelous artifacts. Recreating the Paris Exposition of 1900 required borrowing pieces from the Hermitage, the royal families of Monaco and of Great Britain, and of course also from our own local arbiters of opulence, the Gettys (who loaned an astonishing portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, as framed by the painter). The jewelry is often incredibly delicate and poetic, while the larger pieces (such as a solid silver dressing table) are never less than fascinating even when they are quite horrible.

And then there are the Fabergé eggs.