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Custom cufflinks created for a Manhattan businessman and sophisticate are so lovely they have been added to our collection.  Colorful and elegant; celebrating Gustav Klimt and Amedeo Modigliani.

Water Serpents II, Gustav Klimt, 1904-1907

Cufflink Modigliani 7a

Female Nude, Amedeo Modigliani, 1916

Cufflink Kandinski 2a

Color Study: Squares with Concentric Circles, Wassily Kandinsky, c. 1910

Available at lisaconfetti.com for $34.  For the same price, we can also create cufflinks using any artist image on our site.

Something I saw last month during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee caught my attention.  During her Thanksgiving Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Queen Elizabeth wore a stunning diamond brooch containing two stones cut from the largest rough gem-quality diamond ever discovered:  the legendary Cullinan Diamond.

Found in 1905 in the South African Premier Diamond Mine, the 3,106 carat — yes 3,106 carat — Cullinan Diamond is named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, the mine’s owner.  It was purchased by the Transvaal government (a former Boer and British colony located in northern South Africa) and presented to King Edward VII (Queen Elizabeth’s great grandfather) on his birthday.

The largest polished gem cut from the stone is 530.4 carats and mounted on the Scepter of the Cross.

The 2nd largest stone cut from the Cullinan Diamond (317 carats) is in the Imperial State Crown.


And, the 3rd and 4th largest stones (94.4 and 63.6 carats) were beautifully worn by Queen Elizabeth on her Diamond Jubilee.

So, if you are King Edward VII, how do you transport your 3,106 carat diamond from South Africa to London in an era before airplanes?  You put a fake diamond on a steam ship with lots of decoy security, and you ship the real diamond via parcel post.  (Yep, that’s how they did it.)

And how do you have your beyond-priceless diamond cut by hand decades before computer technology was even envisioned?  You hire the world’s best diamond cutter, from Asscher Brothers of Amsterdam.  (160 years old, The Royal Asscher Diamond Company is still cutting the world’s most valuable stones.)  You listen to the experts who tell you your diamond will break in half through a defective spot, and you authorize an incision cut into the stone to allow it to be cleanly split with one heavy blow.  And in a brilliant move, you order a doctor and nurse to stand by.  And why do you do this?  Because you will correctly anticipate that even though all will go exactly as planned, when the rock splits perfectly in half, your poor diamond cutter will faint stone dead.

The nine largest stones cut from the Cullinan Diamond.

I’m so glad this brooch belongs to the Queen.  Seeing ostentatious bling on Kim Kardashian, Russian trophy wives and New York city society matrons makes me gag.  But seeing it on the Queen makes me smile: all seems right with the world.

Paul Gauguin Self Portrait with Yellow Christ

Portrait of the Artist with the Yellow Christ, 1889.  Collection of Musee d’Orsay, Paris

Paul Gauguin was a leading French Post-Impressionist artist whose talent was not recognized until after his death.

He artistically rejected objective representation in favor of subjective expression, and he broke with the Impressionists’ studies of minutely contrasted hues, believing that color must be expressive.  His work was influential to the French avant-garde and many modern artists, including Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.

Three Tahitian Women, 1896.  Collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Arlésiennes (Mistral), 1888.  Collection of The Art Institute of Chicago

Pastorales Tahitiennes, 1892.  Collection of The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Diego Velazquez, one of history’s greatest masters of visual realism, became court painter for the Spanish king Philip IV as a young man and held the position for the rest of his life.  His close personal relationship with Philip and his high office of marshal of the palace gave him prestige, and a rare opportunity to fulfill the promise of his genius.

Velazquez painted this at eighteen years of age.

Old Woman Cooking Eggs, 1618.  Collection of National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh

Another work Velazquez created at eighteen.

Water Carrier of Seville, c. 1619.  Collection of Apsley House, London

At the height of his artistic powers, Velazquez was commissioned to paint a portrait of Pope Innocient X, a work which would become a masterpiece.  As a trial run, he painted this portrait of his assistant Juan de Pareja.  A painting that was also destined to become a masterpiece.

The practice run . . .

Juan de Pareja, 1649-50.  Collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The commissioned portrait . . .

Pope Innocent X, c. 1650.  Collection of Galleria Doria Pamphilj, Rome

Perhaps the most recognized of Velazquez’s paintings is Las Meninas.

Las Meninas, c. 1656.  Collection of Museo del Prado, Madrid

In his role as court painter, Velazquez created numerous portraits of King Philip IV and his family.  Las Meninas depicts the king’s daughter, the infanta Margarita, with two of her maids in waiting, her favorite dwarfs, and a large dog.  It is a work of great compositional complexity.  Velazquez is shown to the left, before a large canvas.  What is he painting?  Portraits of the king and queen (who are reflected in a mirror in the background), or what he sees in a mirror reflecting this scene?  As the viewer, are we the king and queen being painted by the artist, or are we the mirror?

A fascinating sidenote . . .

In 2004, while he was a junior curator at the prestigious Yale University Art Gallery, John Marciari found a badly damaged painting stashed in the gallery’s warehouse.  “The angels started singing” he says, when he realized The Education of the Virgin could be an unknown treasure. “There’s no way,” he recalls thinking, “that I just found a Velázquez in a storeroom.”

The Education of the Virgin, c. 1617-18.  Collection of Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut

Smithsonian Magazine printed a fascinating article about the painting and Marciari’s quest to have it authenticated by his fellow scholars.  Here is a link to the article:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/A-Velazquez-in-the-Cellar.html#

And to make the story even better (for me, at least), John Marciari is now a curator at the San Diego Museum of Art.  I live in San Diego, am a member of the museum and had the pleasure of attending Marciari’s absolutely fascinating lecture on the topic.  (And kudos to San Diego Museum of Art director Roxana Velasquez for turning a sleepy hometown gallery into a vibrant museum.)

Are you a member of your local museum?  If you are at all interested in art, JOIN!  You will receive notices of wonderful events and lectures that — if you like the arts — you will love.

SOURCES

Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, A Global History, Enhanced Thirteenth Edition, 2011, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, Seventh Edition, 1980.  Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.

Mary Cassatt was an American artist who spent most of her adult life in Paris and exhibited with the iconic Impressionists.  The theme of her works were often the private lives of women and the intimate bonds between mothers and children.

Because she was a woman, Cassatt could not study at the illustrious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, so she hired distinguished artists as personal instructors to hone her prodigious talent.  Edgar Degas noticed her work, befriending her and encouraging her as an artist.  It is said he observed that it was impossible to believe a woman could draw so well.  Not suprisingly, Cassatt was an active participant in the women’s sufferage movement.

The Bath, c. 1892.  Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Visit www.lisaconfetti.com to see jewelry celebrating history’s great artists, including Mary Cassatt.

The Cup of Tea, detail.  1880-81.  Collection of The Metropolitan Mueum of Art

Children Playing on the Beach, detail, 1884.  Collection of The National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

My friend Erin has a very prestigious leaf on her family tree.  Her grandfather is Domingo Ulloa, a master painter considered to be the father of Chicano Art.  His paintings are included in an extraordinary cultural project taking place across Southern California, Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA. 1945-1980.

Domingo Ulloa, Short Handled Hoe, 1975, private collection
With over 60 participating cultural institutions, Pacific Standard Time is the largest arts project ever organized in Southern California.  Showcasing a wide range of disciplines, including painting, ceramics, architecture, performance art, photography and conceptual art, the project celebrates the birth of the distinctive and globally influential LA art scene.  If you live in Southern California, attend an event or exhibition or two.  The project runs through April 2012.
Domingo Ulloa, Braceros, 1960, Private Collection
Back to Erin’s grandfather.  Domingo Ulloa (1919-1997) studied art at the Acadamia de San Carlos in Mexico City and the Jepson Art Institute in Los Angeles.  His paintings captured the struggle and inhumanity experienced by the everyday field worker, and he assisted in forming the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) after befriending Cesar Chavez.  In 1993 the State of California created a resolution formally declaring him “The Father of Chicano Art.”
As part of the Pacific Standard Time cultural project, his paintings are included in Art Along the Hyphen:  The Mexican-American Generation at the Autrey National Center in Los Angeles.

And a very dear endnote to this post.  A portrait of my friend Erin Hay, at the age of 2 or 3, by her grandfather, Domingo Ulloa.  How special is that?!

Domingo Ulloa, Sweet Erin, c. 1988, private collection

PROVENANCE: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art. 

I just read this book and highly recommend it.  It’s a fast, fun extremely interesting read.  And what is the wackiest twist to this wild story?  First take a look at the publisher’s description of the book, and then I’ll tell you. 

Filled with extraordinary characters and told at breakneck speed, Provenance reads like a well-plotted thriller. But this is most certainly not fiction. It is the astonishing narrative of one of the most far-reaching and elaborate cons in the history of art forgery. Stretching from London to Paris to New York, investigative reporters Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo recount the tale of infamous con man and unforgettable villain John Drewe and his accomplice, the affable artist John Myatt. Together they exploited the archives of British art institutions to irrevocably legitimize the hundreds of pieces they forged, many of which are still considered genuine and hang in prominent museums and private collections today.

Okay, sounds good, right?  But what’s the wacky twist?  Years after the story in the book ends, the forger John Myatt, was asked by the Scotland Yard detective who investigated him to paint a family portrait.  The men are now close friends, and Myatt has become a highly successful painter of “legitimate fakes” — admitted forgeries signed with his own name.

Check out his site www.johnmyatt.com, and read the book.  It’s quite a page turner!