For the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s latest exhibition, “Jewelry: The Body Transformed,” six curators came together to investigate what jewelry actually is, and what meanings it conveys. What resulted became an inventive and expansive show that examines 230 objects created between 2,600 BCE and the present day. The collection is organized not by timeline nor by civilization, but by theme, and treats each piece as more of a miniature sculpture than as an outwardly-facing stylistic accessory.
“While jewelry is ubiquitous, the cultures of the world differ widely regarding where on the body it should be worn,” said Melanie Holcomb, curator, department of medieval art and The Cloisters. “By focusing on jewelry’s interaction with — and agency upon — the human body, this exhibition brings in a key element that has been missing in previous studies of the subject.”
The space is displayed so that guests are able to journey through thematic corner to thematic corner, seeing all sorts of things — necklaces and rings, headdresses and ear ornaments, brooches and belts — from all walks of life and eras of time. Showcased are, obviously, the traditional splendors: Gemstones that, through humankind, have represented a refined cosmopolitan aesthetic; ancient baubles from the global gold-mining hub of West Africa as well as from Hellenistic Greece; heaps of turn-of-the-century treasures created by Louis Comfort Tiffany and later, Tiffany & Co.
The Met’s “Jewelry: The Body Transformed” opens on Monday and runs through Feb. 24, 2019.