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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Verdura To Celebrate 75 Years With an Exhibition Curated by Carolina Herrera

Duke Fulco di Verdura. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

Verdura is one of the very few jewelers that elicit gasps from people when I say I’m planning a visit. Its respect and awe are well earned.

Duke Fulco di Verdura (1898 – 1978), already well-known as a high jewelry designer through his collaborations with Coco Chanel and Paul Flato, became a superstar in the rarefied world where royalty, business leaders and world-class entertainers mingle when he opened his eponymous boutique on New York’s Madison Avenue in 1939. The Sicilian native is credited with modernizing high jewelry and for adding colorful precious gemstones to yellow gold, which surprisingly wasn’t done previously.

“Medusa” Brooch, created in collaboration with Salvador Dalí, 1941.
Made of gold, morganite and ruby, it frames a miniature painting
of Medusa by Dali.

His work will be the subject of a retrospective titled “The Power of Style: Verdura at 75,” from October 14 till December 23 at a space adjacent to the Verdura flagship location on 745 5th Ave., just feet away from his original boutique. It will feature approximately 150 original jewelry pieces and objects d’art by Fulco di Verdura as well as a small selection of his 10,000 gouache jewelry designs, archival materials, personal miniature paintings and period photographs.

From left: Nico Landrigan, Verdura president, fashion designer
Carolina Herrera and Ward Landrigan, Verdura chairman and CEO. 

Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

On Monday Verdura unveiled some of its plans for the exhibition led by Ward Landrigan, who purchased Verdura in 1985; his son Nico, its president; and the exhibit’s curators fashion designer Carolina Herrera and her husband Reinaldo Herrera, a Vanity Fair editor; and their daughter, Patricia Lansing, who arrived late directly from the airport following a flight from Brazil. The Herreras were friends with Duke Fulco di Verdura and are longtime friends of the Landrigan family.

The future exhibition space now under construction and posters of famous celebrity clients and jewelry that will be featured in the exhibit. Photo credit: Anthony DeMarco

The preview was held at the exhibit’s future space, currently under construction. Within the bare walls were several jewelry pieces, various posters, jewelry drawings and a poster-size photograph of Duke Fulco di Verdura in a white dress shirt and black tie smoking a cigarette. All will be included in the exhibition.

Gemstone, gold and enamel “Maltese Cross” Cuffs, circa 1930, originally belonging to Coco Chanel. 

Reinaldo Herrera, who knew the jeweler since he was a teenager, said Verdura had the ability to take precious materials and create artistic jewelry that didn’t necessarily demand immediate attention and could be worn casually. Prior to that high jewelry was big, bold and strictly worn on formal occasions.

Aquamarine and diamond necklace, 1933.

His collaborations with Salvador Dalí produced some of his most famous pieces. One item that was shown to the press Monday was the “Medusa” brooch, with 13 intertwined snakes made of 14k yellow gold with cabochon ruby eyes that frames a miniature painting of Medusa set with a 73-carat Morganite. Ward Landrigan called the piece the world’s greatest surrealist art work.

Gold, platinum and diamond “Laurel” tiara, 1957. Designed as a commission for Betsey Whitney

Verdura’s client base included the Whitneys, Mellons and Rockefellers; actors Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn and Rita Hayworth; and the composer and songwriter Cole Porter and his wife Linda who, along with Vincent Astor, gave Verdura his initial financing. Nearly all of the pieces in the collection are on loan by private owners. Ward Landrigan noted that the excitement building up to the exhibition is causing more owners to loan their pieces.

An example of the archives that will be part of the exhibition.

The Herreras revealed little of their plans for the exhibition, instead focusing on Verdura the man. “He was a fun person with a sharp tongue,” said a laughing Carolina; while Reinaldo added that “he said all the right things to all the wrong people.”

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