A Fine Possession – Jewellery & Identity, Powerhouse Museum

Necklace worn by Satine

Satine by Stefano Centuri – Inspired by the Louis XVI style, openwork lace patterns, scrolls and splendorous bodice jewellery, this is a replica made of silver and crystals that acted as a ‘stunt double’ in the Baz Luhrmann film Moulin Rouge courtesy Powerhouse Museum

Curator Eva Czernis-Ryl has produced an outstanding exhibition for the Powerhouse Museum (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) at Sydney.

“A fine possession” she observed, will appeal to those with “an interest in creative jewellery from different periods and cultures”.

There will be some significant ‘celebrity pieces’ in the show, such as the necklace worn by Nicole Kidman as Satine in the Baz Luhrmann movie Moulin Rouge. It was designed by Stefano Canturi to capture La Belle Époque, the beautiful era when eclecticism was an important aspect of the aesthetic of the time both in fashion and in interiors.

It is without doubt one of the most expensive pieces of jewellery ever created for the movies, and the original featured some 1308 diamonds totalling 134 carats and looked stunning when worn by Australian born actor Nicole Kidman. The fine possession on show will be a replica created with silver and crystals that appears in the film as the original’s stunt double!

Ring: rose-cut diamonds, blue enamel, silver, gold, England, c1770-1780 lent by Catherine Martin, Photo: Powerhouse Museum

As well community galleries, private collectors, jewellers, antique dealers, critics and academics have contributed. Catherine Martin, the designer for Moulin Rouge, has also lent her stunning rose-cut diamonds, blue enamel and gold antique ring, which dates from 1770 – 1780.

The exhibition will start on the 24 September 2014 and be on show until 20 September 2015.

It will document and showcase different eras in the development of highly decorative stylish creative jewellery, including supreme “… objects of intimate beauty that enchant, surprise and stimulate the imagination” said Ms Czernis-Ryl.

The display has been formulated around the some seven hundred outstanding pieces including a remarkable selection of jewellery collected in Australia.

From cupid to Cartier and from antiquity to the contemporary age, jewellery reflects a multitude of personal messages and meanings whether worn to mark an occasion or to showcase our style, our desires, hopes and dreams.

In this landmark show at the Powerhouse Museum you will find jewellery from the beautiful to the bizarre, from ancient Egyptian amulets and heart scarabs, through to wonderful pieces in Victorian times.

Superb eighteenth-century corsage ornament designed as a spray of flowers set with golden topaz and white pastes, French, c. 1760 by courtesy Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Donated through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program by Anne Schofield AM, 2002 photo by Richard Gates Photography

Superb eighteenth-century corsage ornament designed as a spray of flowers set with golden topaz and white pastes, French, c. 1760 by courtesy Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Donated through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program by Anne Schofield AM, 2002 photo by Richard Gates Photography

The germination of the idea for this show started a decade ago with Australian antique jewellery expert Anne Schofield and then deputy director Jennifer Sanders.

Sidelined for a while, it was revived and expanded under current director Rose Hiscock, finally being brought to fruition with Paul Keating officiating at an opening ceremony

This stunning exhibition brings together objects from the Museum’s own rich collection that have rarely or never been seen, alongside prized possessions from a range of private and public collections from Australia and overseas,” said the Museum’s Director, Rose Hiscock

Australian antique jewellery expert Anne Schofield assisted the curator source many ‘fine possessions’ and has loaned some seventy + pieces to be the nucleus of this collection.

There are also pieces borrowed from the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of NSW, National Gallery of Victoria, Art Gallery of South Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), and the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Tasmania.

The sensational French paste brooch c1760, was donated to the Powerhouse Museum through the Australian Government Cultural Gifts Program by Anne Schofield AM in 2002.

She has recently released her new book Jewels on Queen. This follows on from her previous landmark definitive publication Australian Jewellery (1990) produced with Kevin Fahy, both of which are sure to be on sale at the Museum shop after the event.

Cameo Ring Anne Schofield

Ring, onyx and gold, depicting the profile of Napoleon Bonaparte as a Roman Emperor, Giovanni Antonio Santorelli, Italy, early 19th century from the Collection of Anne Schofield A.M., Photo by Anne Schofield

The show has been divided into themes: Belief and Magic, Love and Death, Nature and Culture, Style and Revival, Gold and Identity, Status and Wealth, Men and Adornment, Modernity and Change with the final, Contemporary and Expressive.

The Gold and Identity theme of the show will concentrate on pieces made during the period when the discovery of gold in Australia in the 1950’s led to the immigration of many artisans renowned for fine craftsmanship.

The human quest to know and understand our identity has been taking place since our reflection first occupied a unique place in our imagination.

Since antiquity humankind has continued to examine new ways to express and communicate our ideas about who we are, while reflecting how we embrace change.

Fashion is imposed on costume, dictating and reflecting those changes and the concerns of our society in any one place at any one time either economically, socially or culturally.

If as they say, clothes maketh the man (or woman for that matter) then wearing wonderful jewellery certainly helps.

Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge Detail Photo by Sue Adler

Nicole Kidman as Satine in Moulin Rouge wearing that necklace, detail Photo by Sue Adler

Wearing fine possessions can make us not only feel like a million dollars, but also can give a boost to our belief in self that is really second to none.

Dashingly dressed with an air of extravagance and essential movement, a man or woman can look the epitome of confidence. They can also project a ‘devil may care attitude’ as they set out to make a considerable impression on the world.

The arts are central to our national identity in Australia just as they are around the world, and they help to bring about social cohesion and economic success.

The ancient Egyptian jewellery in the show will reflect that in ancient times costume fulfilled a function beyond just utility.

Outstanding works of the goldsmith’s art produced during the Pharaonic period of ancient Egypt that survive present us with a striking image of the daily life of the ruling classes and their beliefs concerning the after life. They bear witness to a refined and lavish art, as well as the constant preoccupation with protection both on this earth and beyond that prevailed at the time.

Belt buckle, flannel flower, silver gilt and enamel, Deakin and Francis, Birmingham England, 1909 – 1910. Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Photo by Geoff Friend

Many of these very serious jewels of desire have been made from a variety of traditional and avant-garde materials.

There is a stunning belt buckle produced at a time when nature and culture came together in a style that was metmorphing from the sinuous glory of the French Art Nouveau to the streamlined sophistication that became Art Deco. This piece has many cross over elements to the design, which occurred during the first decade of the twentieth century.

The exhibition also aims to celebrate some of the diversity of Asian, African and Oceanic adornment, as well as the innovation and creativity of contemporary studio jewellers.

Bracelet, acrylic, polyester, polyurethane foam, silver, designed and made by Peter Chang, Glasgow, Scotland, 2004, Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Photo by Geoff Friend

Bracelet, acrylic, polyester, polyurethane foam, silver, designed and made by Peter Chang, Glasgow, Scotland, 2004, Collection: Powerhouse Museum, Photo by Geoff Friend

There is a stunning rainbow-coloured bracelet by acclaimed contemporary Glasgow designer Peter Chang.

One of the most appealing thing behind many of the pieces is the stories attached to them.

Close Up Bracelet

Detail of a ‘fine possession’, bracelet bearing the mark of Faberge, courtesy Private Collection

There is s very pretty bracelet of delightfully coloured gem stones and diamonds Martyn Cook of Martyn Cook Antiques helped source from a private collector.

It was found by the collector when, as a young woman, she was first working in Sydney. She used to admire it in a local antique shop during her lunch hour.

The young lady remembered a story shared with an older mentor when she was a teenager that if dealers believe someone was passionate about owning a piece they will do a ‘deal’ to ensure that they secure it, including the old fashioned concept, laybye.

Dealers want their pieces to go to homes where the owner understands that possessing such wonders is a privilege and is, in the great scheme of things, only owned by them for a short time in terms of history.

It also means because they are passionate they help preserve the piece for posterity.

So after continually admiring it for weeks the young lady got up the courage to ask the dealer would she be able to put it onto the lay bye system so she could pay it off each pay day until she owned it because she liked it so much.

The dealer agreed and she went every week until it was hers. Understandably, she gained a great deal of pleasure wearing it because it was something she had chosen because she loved and admired it.

Also, she had paid it off herself from her first wages, giving her an immense feeling of achievement and satisfaction.

Masked face Ring-surrounded-by-Rubies courtesy Anne Schofield Antiques, Sydney

Italian ‘carnival mask’ ring, the hinged enamel bezel set with a female face in a black domino mask, with rose-cut diamond eyes, within a garnet border, Venice, c. 1760 courtesy Anne Schofield, from her book Jewels on Queen published by New South Books

Interestingly some years later she took it to be cleaned by another jeweller while working overseas. Excitedly he reported that he found a very tiny but significant signature near the clasp.

It was none other than that of the great goldsmith himself Carl Peter Faberge, the legendary Russian jeweller. What a find and, what a tale to tell her grandchildren.

Jewellery designers, and indeed all designers, are extremely creative, profoundly imaginative original thinkers who can see something in their minds eye and then bring it into existence. It’s an awesome talent and responsibility, because they have the power to affect people’s emotions and truly change how people perceive the world around them.

This exhibition is sure to draw big crowds and there will be sure to be whoops of delight at seeing such a glorious array of jewels.

I know The Culture Concept Circle Fashion Editor Jo Bayley and I will be visiting and I will definitely write more stories about the show.

Don’t let the fact that it is on for such a long time make you complacent. In fact, please make a pact with yourself to go back again during the year ahead. Perhaps even two or three.

Across ‘continents and cultures’ A Fine Possession – Jewellery & Identity at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney from September 24, 2014 will be an exhibition sure to delight all the senses and to inspire the imagination.

This show is all about the stories the jewels tell as an ongoing aspect of the evolution of our society and culture because the costume we wear is a footnote to culture, and a forever changing and eternal form of human expression.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2014

Fine PossessionA fine possession: Jewellery and identity

24 September 2014 – 20 September 2015

10.00 am to 5.00 pm

Powerhouse Museum, 500 Harris Street, Ultimo

Pre-book General Admission Tickets online for Priority Entry

Select the date you would like the visit, and the number of tickets required for that visit.

Arrive to the Museum at any time on the date you’ve selected, during opening hours.
The Museum opens at 10am – 5pm daily (closed Christmas Day only).

Print your ticket and bring it with you, or store the pdf on your mobile, and present it to staff at the Museum’s front desk.

The Powerhouse Museum, alongside Sydney Observatory and Powerhouse Discovery Centre, is part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (MAAS), Australia’s contemporary museum for excellence and innovation in applied arts and sciences. The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences has a vast and diverse collection of over 500,000 objects.



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