The Art of Bulgari dazzles at the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

bulgari-store-28-via-de-condotti-1900_2

The Bulgari store at 28 via dei Condotti, Rome, ca. 1900. Photo credit: Bulgari Historical Archive

 

Exclusive exhibit highlights pieces spanning four decades of Bulgari jewelry

BY MARLENE MONTANEZ

Andy Warhol once said: “I always visit Bulgari because it is the most important museum of contemporary art.” These are wise words spoken by an artist who recognized the significance and impact the luxury brand was making on the world. Now, you can immerse yourself in the world of Bulgari at The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950-1990, on display through February 17, 2014, at the de Young Fine Arts Museum in San Francisco.

The carefully curated collection showcases 150 pieces from a pivotal period in Bulgari design. “It’s the period when Bulgari really came into its own in the post-war economic boom,” explains Martin Chapman, curator of European Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “What we see evolving from 1950 is Bulgari establishing its own identity in jewelry, coming up with new designs, new forms, new color combos.”

“Bib” necklace, 1965. Gold with emeralds, amethysts, turquoise, and diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Lyn Revson. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 401 N565 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

“Bib” necklace, 1965.
Gold with emeralds, amethysts, turquoise, and diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Lyn Revson.
Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 401 N565 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

As Bulgari strayed from current jewelry trends, a new aesthetic was born for which the house quickly become known: bold and unusual color combinations, the heavy use of yellow gold (instead of white gold) for both daytime and evening jewelry, and the mix of semiprecious with precious stones are some of its most familiar characteristics.

Cabochon jewels (rounded gemstones) were also seen in Bulgari pieces in the late 1950s and on, as well as forms derived from the Italian Renaissance and Greco-Roman classicism.

Bracelets, 1955 and 1959. Platinum with diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Ellen Barkin. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 4924 B527, 4925 B528 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Bracelets, 1955 and 1959. Platinum with diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Ellen Barkin. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 4924 B527, 4925 B528 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Alongside the jewelry, the exhibit also features sketches, photographs and other archival materials that bring the cultural context of the pieces to life. But it is perhaps the social context, most notably, Bulgari’s relationship with a prominent celebrity clientele, which audiences will most enjoy exploring.

Celebrities like Sofia Loren, Ingrid Berman and Elizabeth Taylor were among some of Bulgari’s high-profile patrons. In fact, some of the most important pieces in the exhibit stem from Elizabeth Taylor’s collection, which Bulgari reacquired from a recent sale, Chapman explains. The GIA (Gemological Institute of America) even declared the pendant brooch Elizabeth Taylor’s emerald necklaces that’s on display in the exhibit as one of the finest emeralds in history.

Necklace, 1962, with pendant/brooch, 1958. Platinum with emeralds and diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 6676 N2169, 347870 P393 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Necklace, 1962, with pendant/brooch, 1958. Platinum with emeralds and diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 6676 N2169, 347870 P393 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Another standout piece is the Revson “Bib” necklace (above), formerly part of Lyn Revson’s collection, the wife of Revlon owner Charles Revson. The piece features a gorgeous and unusual combination of emeralds, amethysts, turquoise and diamonds.

“The main story is the jewels. They are fantastic quality and really represent the greatest during these years, Chapman says. “It’s a very exciting exhibition; people were blown away at the opening.”

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“The Art of Bulgari: La Dolce Vita & Beyond, 1950–1990” runs until Feb. 17, 2014.

 

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“Tremblant” brooch, 1959. Platinum with fancy colored diamonds and diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. Private collection © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

“Tremblant” brooch, 1959. Platinum with fancy colored diamonds and diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor.
Private collection © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

“Tubogas” choker, 1974. Two-color gold with Greek silver coins. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 404 N607. © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

“Tubogas” choker, 1974. Two-color gold with Greek silver coins. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 404 N607. © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Sautoir, ca. 1973. Three-color gold with British silver coins and diamonds. Formerly in the di Portanova Collection Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 7733 N2043 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Sautoir, ca. 1973. Three-color gold with British silver coins and diamonds. Formerly in the di Portanova Collection
Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 7733 N2043 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Sautoir, 1969. Platinum with sapphires and diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 6675 N2170 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Sautoir, 1969. Platinum with sapphires and diamonds. Formerly in the collection of Elizabeth Taylor. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 6675 N2170 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

“Playing Card” brooch, ca. 1975. Gold with mother-of pearl, coral, onyx, and diamonds. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 5070 P113 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

“Playing Card” brooch, ca. 1975. Gold with mother-of pearl, coral, onyx, and diamonds. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 5070 P113 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

parentesi-parurue

Parentesi” parure, ca. 1982. Gold with diamonds. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 5063 E173, 5068 N1500, 5072 B508 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Parentesi” parure, ca. 1982. Gold with diamonds. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 5063 E173, 5068 N1500, 5072 B508 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte

Parentesi” parure, ca. 1982. Gold with diamonds. Bulgari Heritage Collection, inv. 5063 E173, 5068 N1500, 5072 B508 © Antonio Barrella Studio Orizzonte