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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

'The Power of Style: Verdura at 75' Opens To The Public

The Laurel Tiara was commissioned for Betsey Whitney and worn during the ceremony marking the appointment of her husband, John Hay Whitney, as UK Ambassador.

It’s rare that a retailer and jewelry design firm can put together a museum-quality exhibition as encompassing as the “The Power of Style: Verdura at 75.”

Original Coco Chanel Maltese Cross Cuffs 

The showcase not only celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Verdura brand, but more importantly it serves as a retrospective of the brand’s founder and namesake, Fulco di Verdura, whose work spanned five decades. The exhibition contains 216 pieces of Verdura jewelry in a museum quality space adjacent to the company’s Fifth Avenue flagship location. 

In the foreground is a bracelet worn by Greta Garbo on screen and in the background is a look at the Fulcon di Verdura and Coco Chanel photograph with the Maltese Cross cuff. 

“It started out being 150 pieces but as word got out that we were going to do a museum quality exhibition, people got excited about it and started opening their jewel boxes,” said Ward Landrigan, who purchased Verdura in 1985. “For people who wear this jewelry a lot, it’s a long time to be without it.”

Jewelry and photographs of famous women wearing verdura pieces, including Babe Paley, described as Verdura's muse, in the background.

The exhibition opened to the public Tuesday and will run till December 23 at 745 Fifth Avenue, 12th floor. Reservations can be made by following this link

A portion of the exhibition space is dedicated to ledgers that recorded sales and jewelry drawings by Fulco di Verdura.

Even though the business is a retailer and a creator of jewelry based on Verdura’s original designs, the company managed to put together a proper representation of the designer, his work and a glimpse into the man, known for his well-connected friends and for being the life of the party. At least part of the reason had to be because the exhibition was curated by international fashion designer, Carolina Herrera, and her husband Reinaldo, who were personal friends of Verdura. 

Bejeweled elephant

The items are arranged either by period, theme or style in large wall cases, where the jewelry appears to be floating, or in standalone cases for special pieces, such as the Chanel bracelets or the Whitney tiara. It is a well lit space from the inside and outside light colored walls and well-placed partitions give the space breadth and depth. 

Snail brooches
“First we get all this jewelry and then you try to make sense of what relates to what and how,” Landrigan says. “Luckily, because he did so many things that were of interest, we didn’t have any trouble with that.”

Kunzite Wing Brooch

Along with the pieces are jewelry sketches, photographs of Verdura, who died in 1978, miniature paintings by Verdura, and photographs of the many celebrities, aristocrats, politicians and business people (men and women) who wore his jewelry or collected his art objects. All of the business transactions, no matter how noteworthy the client, were recorded on ledgers. One ledger and photographs of others are on display, revealing some of the famous clientele.

Tea Rose brooch

All of the pieces have either been loaned to the exhibition by the owners or their estates or are part of Landrigan's personal collection. He stresses that none of the items are for sale. Those who donated their pieces include Brooke Shields, Sofia Coppola, Whoopi Goldberg and philanthropist Mercedes Bass. 

Fulco di Verdura and Coco Chanel. Verdura designed the Maltese Cross Cuff for Coco Chanel, which became an iconic fashion symblol for Coco, for Chanel and for Verdura. 

One of the standouts is the Chanel Maltese Cross Cuffs worn by Verdura’s personal friend and collaborator, Coco Chanel. These became her signature cuffs and were recreated as costume jewelry and sold by Chanel. Landrigan explains that people assumed Verdura made costume jewelry but he didn’t. He made jewelry for Coco Chanel who had them re-made as costume pieces. 

Greta Garbo wears Verdura gold bracelet in 1941 photograph by Clarence Sinclair Bull

Other pieces of note are a yellow gold bracelet worn by Greta Garbo on screen (one of many Verdura pieces worn in movies) and the Laurel tiara, commissioned for Betsey Whitney and worn for the occasion of her husband, John Hay Whitney, being appointed as UK Ambassador.

Blue Diamond Ring

One of the things about Verdura’s work is that he was a true bespoke jeweler, making one-of-a-kind pieces based on the personal preference of a client or a specific occasion. Just about every piece of jewelry and object on display has a unique story. There are many more examples of Fulco di Verdura’s creativity and imagination and many more stories in the exhibition. 

Verdura owner Ward Landrigan in the reflection of a display case that represents five decades of jewelry created by Fulco di Verdura. Behind Landrigan is a photograph of Verdura. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

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1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful feature Anthony, shame I am too far to visit this exhibition :(