|A carved sapphire bracelet.|
I haven't been to the Taipei Palace Museum in a while, but I just visited their exhibit called Royal Style, Qing Dynasty and Western Court Jewelry, to which a friend was kind enough to give me a ticket. There were no major pieces such as the Hope or Koh-i-Noor diamonds, but I'll have to say that the display was impressive and literally dazzling. It was well-staged; the walls, floors and showcases were totally black, with tiny spotlights showing the pieces to best advantage.
It was somewhat of an odd pairing. Half of the exhibit was Cartier jewelry and objets d’art from the early 20th century, and the other half was Ching court jewelry from the 18-19th centuries. There didn’t seem to be any scholarly reason for the mixture—I believe that the museum wanted a crowd-pleaser, and the viewers went for the fun of ogling all those diamonds.
Lovers of traditional diamond-encrusted necklaces, tiaras, stomachers, and bracelets could see many fine examples, all so brilliant lit and sparkling that they almost hurt the eyes. I usually think that tiaras look ridiculous, but here I could see their intended purpose and effect.
|Diamond tiaras were in abundant supply. (Click on pictures to enlarge.)|
|This tiara was set with aquamarines.|
|143-carat emerald as centerpiece.|
|Rubies, emeralds, and sapphires in the style known as tutti-frutti.|
|The sapphire in this leopard-brooch seemed a much lighter blue, and was nearly tranparent.|
Jewelry from the 1920’s often took part in the Egyptomania of the period. Some pieces were free interpretations such as these Art Deco masterpieces, while others incorporated actual antiquities, such s these jewel-mounted pieces of Egyptian blue faïence.
There were many small objects, such as picture frames, cigarette and cosmetic cases, and this owl, that you would swear were by Fabergé.
The second half of the exhibit featured Chinese court jewelry. Some of the pieces, such as the hat below which belonged to Chien Long, are the actual ones seen in paintings of the emperors.
|Royal necklace in Jade, coral and tourmaline.|
|Emperor Chien Long's sable hat.|
|In this hairpin, jade and tourmaline flowers are joined by a dragonfly, a butterfly, and a lucky bat.|
|This hairpin features a figure proffering a lucky peach symbolizing longevity.|
These enameled hand-hairpins had to be my personal favorites on the Chinese side. When they were inserted so that the pins didn’t show, it must have appeared that the rest of the person belonging to the hand was lost and mired in the elaborate coiffure.
|An assortment of carved gemstone pendants.|
|The quality of this coral phoenix hairpin is amazing.|
I particularly found interesting the section of the exhibit showing how the jewels were made, which included many original drawings and castings. Unfortunately, these were not illustrated in the catalogue.
These gems date from an age when court life, first nights and elaborate private parties provided the occasions to display wealth and taste in this fashion. Displaying about five hundred of these jewels together allowed the viewer to concentrate on the design, superb craftsmanship, and overall effect of these pieces that so well illustrated jeweler's art over the last several centuries.
Please let me know if you have any favorite pieces, and what you think of the contrast between the Chinese imperial pieces to the French Cartier ones.
All photos courtesy Taipei Palace Museum