Thursday, August 23, 2007

Salvador Dali’s Art-In-Jewels

2007: I have always been fascinated by Salvador Dali's art + his imaginative concepts. I really liked his art + the interpretations.

(The Australian Gemmologist, Vol.11, No.5, February 1972) P B Lapworth writes:

In June and July of 1971 an exhibition of Art-in-Jewels by Salvador Dali was shown at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in London. This collection is the property of the Owen Cheatham Foundation of New York, which permits its loan to raise funds for charitable, educational and religious purposes; in this case the exhibition was in aid of the Institute of Child Health, the medical school of the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. Some of Dali’s paintings and drawings were also shown.

Dali felt that since Faberge, importance had been given to gems alone, and that ‘imaginative jewelry creations and precious objects d’art had virtually disappeared as a form of art….Inspired by the artists of Renaissance, Dali decided to design jewels to show the jeweler’s art in true perspective—where, as in the work of Cellini, the design and craftsmanship are to be valued above the material worth of the gold and precious stones used in their creation. From this decision came jewels rare in concept, exquisite in execution and with extraordinary appeal as works of art.

Dali’s sketch designs were on view in the exhibition; he personally selected every stone to be used, and the jewels were made by Alemany & Co, New York, in close collaboration with him, and with Charles Vaillant.

‘Rare in concept’ they certainly are, and ‘exquisite in execution’, undoubtedly. But as to the ‘extraordinary appeal as works of art’….. this can only by a matter of taste. Of the 36 exhibits, some appeared to your correspondent to be grotesque and without charm; others were just plain vulgar, so that some of the truly fabulous materials seem to have been misused and the consummate craftsmanship misapplied.

For instance, No. 34 ‘Pax Vobiscum’ (Peace be with you), despite its giant topaz and exquisite peridots, held no appeal for the writer. It is difficult to convey in words any idea of these extraordinary creations, so the catalogue description must suffice. It reads: ‘An Icon of extreme beauty (?) encompassed by a frame of rough-textured 18-karat gold and mounted on a background of sculptured 20-karat gold leaf. The hinged and moving gold-framed door contains a magnificent Gothic-shaped amber topaz weighing 1311.40 carats. The slowly moving door when open reveals the face of the Savior as conceived by Dali, and painted in oils by him. A sunburst crown of platinum spikes pave’ with diamonds, surmounts the head; while the entire surface is criss-crossed with rays of 18-karat gold, interspaced with a total of 84 acid-green peridots mined from the islands of the Red Sea…’

Like the above, many of the exhibits have moving parts, which makes them fascinating to watch and display the scintillating beauty of the gemstones to great advantage. For instance in No.28 ‘The Royal Heart’ a ruby-set interior pulsates, and in No.32, ‘The Falling Angel’ the wings, moving rhythmically, are encrusted with diamonds. But the loveliest of these is No.36 ‘The Psychedelic Flower’— ‘The lattice-work of sculptured 18-karat gold becomes transformed into a flowering bloom; in the center of each of the 96 geometric designs is suspended a shimmering spinel from Ceylon, in a myriad of colors, to a total of 284.16 carats. Rotating slowly and implanted in a bed of tiny uncut rubies totaling 252.20 carats, a single 18-karat golden stem arises from an exquisitely crafted container of blue Russian lapis lazuli in a mosaic of 75 single pieces, joined together by an overlay of vein-like 18-karat gold in a free-form design.’

Other objects of great beauty were: No.6 ‘Twig Cross,’ whose upper golden limb sprouts emerald leaves, its crosspiece carrying a diamond pave’ swag, which drips ruby drops of blood; No. 14 ‘Explosion’— ‘diamonds, rubies and lapis lazuli bursting from a mound of fluorite to signify the resources of earth and spirit available to all who will seek—the symbolization of radiance and life, the antithesis of decay and death.’

However a visitor to this exhibition may react to the individual work of art, no gemologist could be anything but entranced by the gemstones, used as they are with such lavishness and splendor. Some individual ones are of outstanding size and quality; in No.29 ‘The Angel Cross’ a sculpture 30 inches high, a huge topaz from Brazil, weighing 1687 carats, and quite flawless, forms a door (the door of the tabernacle and the Gate of Heaven) which opens and closes; in No.30 ‘The Space Elephant’ an aquamarine obelisk, mounted on the elephant’s back, weighs 4460 carats; in No.31 ‘The Spider of the Night’ there is an emerald-cut kunzite of pinkish-lilac hue of 208.43 carats. An 89.41 carat sapphire of cornflower blue represents the star born when an angel falls (in The Falling Angel, mentioned earlier), No.33 ‘Daphne’ contains a ‘large topaz of chartreuse color, weighing approximately 4000 carats….possibly the only stone of its kind in existence today’; (in the subdued lighting of the exhibition, however, the stone appeared almost colorless).

In the New York Graphic Society’s handsome pictorial presentation ‘Dali, a Study of his Art-in-Jewels’ which displays color photographs of the exhibits in the Cheatham Collection, Dali writes that his jewels and objects d’art are not intended to ‘rest soullessly in steel vaults.’ He continued: ‘Without an audience, without the presence of spectators, these jewels would not fulfill the function for which they came into being. The viewer, then, is the ultimate artist. His sight, heart, mind—fusing with and grasping with greater or lesser understanding the intent of the creator—gives them life.’

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