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2009 May 21

The Eternal Jeweler, Now on Display

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A piece from the exhibition A piece from the exhibition
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(ROME) Tomorrow morning, on May 22, 2009, Bulgari's first retrospective exhibition Bulgari: Between Eternity and History
will open to the public at the Palazzo delle Espositione on via Nazionale. Last night, members of the international press previewed the breathtaking collection of 541 items representing the brand's 125-year history with a cocktail reception hosted by the firm's fourth-generation chairmen Nicola Bulgari and Paolo Bulgari, as well as Francesco Trapani, CEO of the Bulgari Group.

The exhibition was curated by Amanda Triossi, a jewelry historian who first encountered the brand in 1994 when it approached her to write its retrospective. BULGARI, which was eventually published in 1997, was the first in a series of initiatives to develop a more comprehensive record of the brand. In 1997, Triossi visited the home of Elizabeth Taylor, who owns the most historically significant archive of Bulgari jewels from the 1960s. While Triossi determined that Taylor's jewels were not numerous enough to comprise a solo exhibition, that viewing inspired her to work closely with the Bulgari family to buy back significant pieces to expand the brand's archive. That initiative began in earnest over the past decade, and in the current exhibition, Bulgari is now showing approximately 250 jewels it has recovered from private collectors. The remaining works on display were loaned by private individuals. "Of course, we had to persuade some people to part with pieces for six months," Triossi recalled, citing one customer who finally agreed to offer up a necklace after concluding it didn't match one particular dress she wanted to wear to
a summer wedding.

The result is a comprehensive and fascinating look at the house of Bulgari, which was founded by a Greek silversmith Sotirio Bulgari around 1880 and opened its first store in Rome in 1884. The oldest pieces on display are silver bracelets made by the father of Sotirio in 1870. The space in the Palazzo delle Espositione is divided into approximately 5 rooms that take visitors through each decade of the house's history, from the Art Deco-influenced bracelets of the 1930s to the brand's latest high jewelry collection, which is currently travelling the world. An entire room is devoted to Taylor's exquisite 16-piece collection, including the diamond and emerald necklace given to the actress by Richard Burton which she wore to accept her Oscar for Best Actress for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Another section is devoted to la dolce vita years, which best exemplifies Bulgari's close and enduring relationship with the film industry. Pearl earrings owned famously by Anna Magnani are juxtaposed with the emerald and sapphire cabochon necklace sported memorably by Sophia Loren.

The exhibition ends with a display of contemporary pieces that Bulgari will auction in New York this December. The proceeds from that sale will benefit Save the Children's Rewrite the Future campaign, which aims to provide quality education to approximately 8 million children in conflict-affected areas. The exhibition in Rome, meanwhile, will remain open at the Palazzo delle Espositione through September 13, 2009.
ASHLEY BAKER

 




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