Publication Reviews 35.1

Kevin L. Jones and Christina M. Johnson 2011 Fabulous! Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions, 2000 - 2010. Los Angeles, FIDM Museum Press: 370 pp., hardcover $85.00, available at

Fabulous! Ten Years of FIDM Museum Acquisitions is a large-format, coffee-table sized catalog of resplendent photographs and informative text published to accompany the eponymous exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising’s Museum & Galleries in Los Angeles running through December 17, 2011. Showcasing over two hundred years of fashion worn by men, women and children, from the sumptuous to the silly, the book has an oddly miscellaneous feeling, largely because it features pieces acquired through purchase or donation to the museum within the last ten years.

Good taste and good connections have handed FIDM some wonderful haute couture, like a delicate 1937 Chanel afternoon dress, a regal late- nineteenth-century Charles Frederick Worth reception gown and a beautiful confection of black lace and cream tulle designed by Alexander McQueen for his Fall/Winter 2008-09 collection. Interspersed among several other fine examples of couture from both sides of the Atlantic are an accumulation of clothing, shoes, jewelry, accessories, and lingerie given to the museum.

The hodge-podgeness of the book is partly due to how it is organized, advancing chronologically through time, so that a mid-sixties gimmicky bikini covered in English copper coins appears next to a dramatic Norman Norell evening ensemble. In terms of strength and coherence, the nineteenth-century section of the book is the best, containing page after page of stellar examples of how people dressed. The nineteenth-century pieces have an added poignancy: they remind us that their survival depended on loving care and attention. Someone, somewhere, cherished them enough to store them away for the day so others might come to appreciate them as much.

Lucid, intelligent text offers up plentiful research and commentary on how changes in materials, styles and tastes affected fashion. Probably most useful for professionals, Fabulous! pays tribute to the hunger of imagination behind what we wear.

Leslie Clark




Stephen Harrison, Emmanuel Ducamp, and Jeannine Falino 2008 Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique. Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press: 358 pp., cloth cover $60, paperback $39.95, available at

The names Fabergé, Tiffany and Lalique epitomize the best in craftsmanship and creativity in Western jewelry design. Volumes have been written about each artist. Although the superb exhibition at San Francisco’s Palace of the Legion of Honor that Artistic Luxury accompanied is long gone, the book would appeal to both serious collectors as well as to anyone interested in jewelry. Presented as a comparative survey of the three designers, who were contemporaries, the authors cannily focused on the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris, the only time that Fabergé, Tiffany and Lalique ever displayed their work together. Their presence at the exposition demonstrated not only their pre-eminence as designers but also as entrepreneurs, who together changed the dynamics of the luxury marketplace for expensive, exquisite jewelry by the stratagem of calling it art.

Artistic Luxury excels at creating the social and cultural context of the Belle Époque. As a portrait of an era of lavish opulence, where every possible surface was decorated, the book’s examples of furnishings and decorative arts, and black-and-white photographs of architecture, room interiors, celebrities, and royalty, help amplify and enhance the meaning and distinction of the jewelry. With Fabergé in Russia, Lalique in France and Tiffany in America and Europe, they straddled the worlds of aristocracy and commerce. The book, divided into four essays, delves into each artist’s milieu, the creative currents that influenced them, what they had to do to keep their affluent clients happy, and the brilliant achievements that proved their own integrity as masters of their craft. Fabergé’s incomparable Easter eggs, after all, grew out of the religious observances of the Russian royal family. Also interspersed are profiles of lesser-known artists, designers, metalworkers, and enamelists, with examples of their work, who also helped define the age.






Layla S. Diba 2011 Turkmen Jewelry. Silver Ornaments from the Marshall and Marilyn R. Wolf Collection. New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 248 pp., hardcover $60.00.

Anyone with a serious interest in ethnographic jewelry will have had an acquaintance with Turkmen (Turkoman)jewelry of central Asia, with its signature openwork, often visually pleasing with graceful curves and fire-gilding. Russian publications have shown such ornaments from at least the 1970s, and Ornament had a cover article in 1999 (Vol. 22, No. 3). What distinguishes this volume is the quality of the Wolf collection, acquired over some thirty years, often in the field or cities of that region. (Unfortunately, find or purchase locations are not reflected in the captions.) Other collections of Turkmen jewelry, and ethnographic ornaments in general, have usually been bought mainly from dealers. The author is an Islamicist, thus well-versed in their arts; a short chapter by the conservator Jean-Francois de Lapérouse discusses Turkmen jewelry techniques; simple but effective, of flat surfaces, with almost no metalforming.

Five categories of adornment are covered in the catalog section: crowns and headdress ornaments, dorsal ornaments, torso and pectoral ornaments, armbands and rings, and clothing and other objects. Within these groupings, there are superb examples, all accomplishing their aesthetic goals by gracile forms, often serially joined by chains. In these shapes, openwork, whether pierced or chiseled, is interspersed with bezel-set carnelian or glass; the contrast of worn silver, the red gems and the warmth of the fire-gilded gold interact beautifully. Because of the size of the collection gifted to the MMA, it is easy to compare examples within the above categories. Perhaps the most satisfying comparisons are with the exquisitely formed single and double heart-shaped cordiform pendants. The Wolf collections contains examples with either stunning niello decorations of Islamic calligraphy or openwork that are the epitome of the best in ethnographic jewelry, where sadly the craftsperson is almost always unknown or not credited by the time it is viewed in a book or an exhibition.


Robert K. Liu




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Nubian Jewelry

Kate Mensah

Philadelphia Craft Show


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