Collateral exhibition 20th Edition
In partnership with: Bianca Cappello and Museo del Bijou di Casalmaggiore (CR)
“Tiffany…Isn’t it wonderful?”See what I mean, how nothing bad could happen to you in a place like this?” Jewels have always represented the seductive evocation of a “dream.” Audrey Hepburn’s “romantic” dream in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, Marilyn Monroe’s “brazen” one in “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”, and long before that the dream of the burgeoning middle class of post-Unification Italy, for whom costume jewellery was one way of realizing their social aspirations.
Born as an imitation of jewelry, democratic in nature as it was accessible to all, unique in the wide range of materials employed, sophisticated thanks to its superior craftsmanship, costume jewellery achieved prestigious standards in Italy through the discovery of “gold plate,” invented by Giulio Galluzzi in Casalmaggiore, in the province of Cremona, as far back as 1882.
These bijoux are the protagonists of “L’Oro Matto e il gioiello-fantasia nella prima metà del Novecento” (Pav. 4), the collateral event that will launch the next edition of Mercanteinfiera (25 February – 5 March) at Fiere di Parma. The exhibition, organized in collaboration with the Bijou Museum of Casalmaggiore(the only Italian museum dedicated to costume jewellery) is curated by Bianca Cappello, jewellery historian and critic, and by Letizia Frigerio, Director of the Museum. It is a journey into creativity and design set within the renowned international antiques, design and vintage exhibition.
It includes over100 pieces made with “gold plate”, metallic alloys, plastics, glass pastes, fake coral, fake rubies, and fake diamonds. Everything is fake: the only things that truly shine are the precision of execution and the imagination of combinations. The artifacts display a variety of styles and techniques in a journey through fashion, art and design that goes beyond the confines of aesthetics by presenting, with the help of images and documents of the time, 60 years of Italian history.
Costume jewellery also featured in the Belle Époqueyears and during the trauma of the war years; later, with their fun and brilliant appearance, they enlivened the post-war dolce vita years. Mercanteinfiera starts this journey through history with cuff links and sautoirs in precious Great Gatsby-style murrine glass pearls, very fashionable in the early 1900s, Edwardian “lacy” brooches alongside1920s ones, inspired by comic book characters such as Signor Bonaventura or the newly-created Mickey Mouse. And while colonial Italy finds expression in the African-inspired bracelets and brooches, the fascist period is marked by references to the iconography of the regime and its vaunted glories.
In the 1940s, costume jewellery drew inspiration from high fashion and jewellery, producing its own version of the “lion” from Elsa Schiaparelli’s 1938 Circus collection and of Cartier’s famous “oiseau en cage” (bird in a cage) designed by Jeanne Toussaint in 1940 to protest the Nazi occupation of Paris. Just as art does, superior craftsmanship communicates emotions and feelings.
Even more than precious jewellery, costume jewellery marks the evolutions of fashion. The exhibition includes collarettes, created to complement the deep necklines of cocktail dresses, rhinestone brooches, ideal for emphasizing a thin waist, and, in the same years, the copy of the sumptuous Bulgari necklace that Richard Burton bought for Liz Taylor in 1964, making the dream of a unique décolleté accessible to all women.
The exhibition concludes with the production of the 1960s economic boom: works created by Ornella Bijoux for Biki (a Milanese dressmaker who fashioned the elegance of Maria Callas), Emma Caimi and Carla Pellini, Ottavio Re and Giuliano Fratti, all of them among the greatest Italian costume jewellers of the mid-twentieth century.