PHYLLIS ODESSEY

NecessaireOui ou Non?

SET IN STYLE
Van Cleef and Arpels

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum
Having a strong fantasy life is essential to enjoying the Van Cleef and Arpels show at the Cooper-Hewitt. The section entitled “Transformations” is a case where the sum of the parts are much greater than the whole. 
   To celebrate an expectant mother, a husband commissions Van Cleef to design a “stork” brooch composed of a yellow diamond briolette of 95 carats.  As astonishing as this is, it is only the beginning. The piece transforms in a variety of ways:  the wings come off to form earrings, the tail comes off to form a brooch, and the pendant can be detached and worn separately.  Maybe, that is the ultimate in getting your money’s worth.
Thinking Outside the Box
European Cabinets, Caskets, and Cases
from the Permanent Collection
(1500-1900)

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Feeling in a rarefied mood, I skipped down to the Met to see Thinking Outside The Box: European Cabinets, Caskets and Cases.  Lucky for me, Danielle Kisluk-Grosheide, Curator of the show was giving a talk about the boxes, followed by Jukeboxes of Old:  Music from Past Centuries.

For me these boxes are simply beautiful: for curators like Kisluk-Groshide they tell a story about the social life of the people who used them.  There was a box made from precious materials for every possible aspect of life:  strongboxes, bonbonnieres (sweet boxes) root boxes (toothbrushes) tea boxes, sugar boxes, shaving boxes, spice boxes, snuff boxes, gaming boxes, cosmetic boxes, wig boxes, and of course, the Necessaire (small boxes for a host of miniature objects).  The history behind these boxes cannot found by googling:  it’s in paintings, etchings, diaries, and letters.

Duval de l’Epinoy with snuff box.
Reproduction of 16th century harpsichord
Part II:  a program of 17th and 18th century music played on vintage or reproductions of vintage instruments.  The flute player told us his flute was made from BOXwood, the tenor was introduced as the human voice-BOX and Kisluk-Grosheide linked the two programs together: the harpsichord is simply a large decorated BOX with strings inside.

No one I know uses a jeweled encrusted gold box for their knickknacks.  But there is one box that almost everyone owns, finds indispensable and contains all their daily routines.


“I think boxes still appeal to us today, and I really like to think that the combination box of choice today is the modern Blackberry or iPhone, which offers us all we need, just like the necessaires of the past did to the eighteenth century men and women. ” Danielle Kisluk-Grosheide

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