Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PART ll OF lll: CARTIER and AMERICA Show, San Francisco

Part II of III

In Part I of this series, I made mention of the stories that accompanied the jewels as being almost as interesting as the jewels themselves, so I've included a few of them in this posting.

The exhibition opens with one of the famous Cartier Mystery Clocks--it is said that the clocks are to Cartier what the Easter Eggs are to Faberge. The mystery clocks are so-called because the clock is clear and transparent and one can see the hands which seem to float in solid crystal, but one cannot see the clock movement that make the hands move.
The secret? Well you'll have to read all the way to the end of Part III of III, where I will reveal what makes it tick!

Photo above:
Large Portique Mystery Clock, Cartier Paris 1923

Platinum, gold, rock crystal dial, columns and Billiken figure (the Billiken is the "God of Things As They Ought To Be"), rose-cut diamonds, coral cabochons, onyx, black enamel, gold plate, 13 jewel Breguet movement. In this clock, the Billiken figure is removable to provide access for winding the movement and setting hands. This clock was the first in a series of 6 in the form of a Shinto "shrine gate" (portique), all different and all made by Cartier between 1923 and 1925.

Left: Ganna Walska, the young Polish beauty.
Right: Madame Ganna Walska in the courtyard of her private quarters, The Pavilion at Lotusland, with her beloved Cockatoo, Happy.
This clock was of particular interest to us, and will be to our fellow Santa Barbara residents because it was owned by the former Montecito resident, the late Ganna Walska, who bequeathed her beloved Lotusland Estate to a foundation so that we might all enjoy it in perpetuity.

Top Row: Left, Lotusland, the main house; Right, The Lotus Pond with the Bathhouse beyond.
Bottom Row: Left, The entrance portal to Lotusland; Right, Madame Walska's private chambers, as completed by Cabana Home and Santa Barbara based designers Steve & Caroline Thompson.

Many of the Cartier jewels owned by Madame Walska were sold in order to purchase the worlds most rare plants and to create the foundation for Lotusland.

Our particular interest lies not only in the rich history of this estate and its former owner, but also because Caroline and I were asked to re-furnish Madame Walska's personal villa at Lotusland, The Pavilion, for last summers fundraiser. Through our research on the project, we began to feel a sort of kinship to Madame Walska as we came to know something about her taste and interests, so the surprise of seeing her name associated with this clock sent a chill up my spine. We felt like we got to know an old friend even better.

There were several pieces in the exhibition that had belonged to Madame Walska, and of particular note was this Chimera Bangle, an Indian/Chinese inspired bracelet that features a pair of colorful carved coral dragon heads, with emerald, sapphire and diamonds highlighted by green, blue and black enamel decoration.

More about the Madame: According to many sources, Madame Walska was a marginally talented opera singer whose genuine gift was marrying well and often (six times). When researching Madame, I found an interesting reference to her influence on the book, CITIZEN KANE (1941). According to Orson Welles, "the patented recipe for creating the character, Charles Foster Kane, included these ingredients:
"10 ounces of Chicago newspaper czar Harold McCormick (of the Chicago Tribune family), who left his wife, Edith Rockefeller McCormick, after being seduced by a Polish prima donna named Ganna Walska."

McCormick was the chief sponsor of the Chicago Opera Company and used his influence to have Walska cast in the opera Zaza. Frances Alda, one of the most expensive voice coaches in the world, was hired to make a singer out of Walska, a task that was in vain because Walska had an awful voice, and Zaza went down as one of the bigger disasters of 1920. Eventually, Walska walked out on McCormick, but he chased her to Europe where she convinced him that the only way to cure his impotence problem was to have thyroid glands from monkey's transpalnted into his own body by a European quack. Apparently Welles was fascinated with this story in his youth.

Viagra would have been easier (and I suspect cheaper).

Actress Gloria Swanson
In the next room we edged our way (yes, the rooms are small and they are crowded with jewels as well as visitors) closer towards a sparkling pair of rock crystal and diamond bracelets, Cartier Paris 1930, owned by the legendary actress Gloria Swanson.

Photos above:
Left: "Closeup" of the rock crystal and diamond bracelet, one of a pair owned by and worn by Ms. Swanson in the film, Sunset Boulevard.
Right: Gloria Swanson, waiting for "her closeup" (Mr. DeMille), as the fading film star Norma Desmond, shown wearing the rock crystal and diamond bracelets in a publicity photo for the film, Sunset Boulevard.

This silver, onyx and nephrite eight-day clock, circa 1943, with one central and four smaller time zone's (estimated to be worth $600 thousand - $1 million), was given as a personal gift by Pierre Cartier to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.


Left: "The poor little rich girl", Barbara Hutton
Center: The flexible Tiger brooch, part of a suite including ear clips, Cartier Paris 1957.
Right: Barbara Hutton and movie star Cary Grant on their wedding day.
Undoubtedly, the stories surrounding the Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton were the saddest. She, the granddaughter of F.W. Woolworth and niece of E.F. Hutton, was the heir of the $40 million (estimates go as high as $150 million) Woolworth fortune.

At her debutante ball, guests were entertained by the stars Rudy Vallee and Maurice Chevalier.

She was married seven times: Five members of royalty, one Diplomat, and one movie star (Cary Grant).
In the film "Poor Little Rich Girl-The Barbara Hutton Story" (1987), Hutton was played by Farrah Fawcett. When Barbara Hutton died in 1979 (46 years and seven husbands after inheriting the estate), this $40 million fortune had been reduced to a mere $3,000.

Jewelry belonging to Dame Elizabeth Taylor (the oft married--eight marriages, but to only seven men) is the legendary ruby and diamond suite that her then husband Mike Todd gave her while vacationing in the French Rivera in 1957 (given to her at poolside wearing only a bathing suit, as captured on a film clip that is part of the show).

Also on loan from Ms. Taylor's jewelry collection is the legendary "La Peregrina" pearl, one of the largest natural pearls in existence. Although Elizabeth Taylor is usually associated with diamonds, La Peregrina pearl (the pilgrim), the pear shaped drop weighing more than 203 grains, was discovered in the 16th century and purchased at auction in 1969 by then husband Richard Burton for $37,000. Cartier set it with diamonds, pearls and rubies in 1972, as a gift from Burton to Ms. Taylor.

An interesting account of the pearls 500 year history is that it was found in Panama in 1513 by a slave and brought to Spain and given to the Crown Prince, Phillip II. He rewarded the slave with freedom. The pearl was given to Mary Tudor of England (daughter of the notorious womanizer, Henry VIII, and the first of his 6 wives) as an engagement present in 1554 from her husband King Phillip II of Spain.
She ascended the thrown in 1553 but she had differing views on religion from her Dad. See, he needed to keep divorcing or beheading his wives because they couldn't give him a son. Catholicism, and mainly the Pope, wasn't so hot on his marital practices so Henry had to turn the entire country Protestant in order to get his divorce.
The problem is the person he needed to divorce was Mary's mother, Catherine of Aragon, who was Spanish and devoutly Catholic. Henry made Mary sign papers renouncing Catherine as ever being Queen, basically making Mary a bastard. She was bitter and held a grudge, so when she ascended the throne she made the country Catholic again, which didn't go over so well. Many died during this period, for which she was held accountable, thus given the lovely nickname "Bloody Mary". Now you know what had to happen next time your hung over and enjoying one of her namesake drinks.

Are you starting to see a pattern of the often and well married?

Good Night Moon

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