Jewelry: The Body Transformed at The Met Fifth Avenue, through February 24, 2019

“What is jewelry? Why do we wear it? What meanings does it convey? The exhibition Jewelry: The Body Transformed traverses time and space to explore how jewelry acts upon and activates the body it adorns. This global conversation about one of the most personal and universal of art forms brings together some 230 objects drawn almost exclusively from The Met collection. A dazzling array of headdresses and ear ornaments, brooches and belts, necklaces and rings created between 2600 B.C.E. and the present day will be shown along with sculptures, paintings, prints, and photographs that will enrich and amplify the many stories of transformation that jewelry tells.” — The Met

“Jewelry is one of the oldest modes of creative expression—predating even cave painting by tens of thousands of years—and the urge to adorn ourselves is now nearly universal,” commented Max Hollein, Director of The Met. “This exhibition will examine the practice of creating and wearing jewelry through The Met’s global collection, revealing the many layers of significance imbued in this deeply meaningful form of art.”

Gold Sandals and Toe Stalls, New Kingdom, Dynasty 18, reign of Thutmose III ca. 1479–1425 B.C. From Egypt, Upper Egypt, Thebes, Wadi Gabbanat el- Qurud, Wadi D, Tomb of the 3 Foreign Wives of Thutmose III. Gold. Sandals: L. 26.4 cm (10 3/8 in.); W. 10 cm. (3 15/16 in.); W. at heel 7 cm. (2 3/4 in.); toe stalls: various. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fletcher Fund, 1922

Broad collar of Senebtisi, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12, late–early 13 (ca. 1850–1775 B.C.). From Egypt, Memphite Region, Lisht North, Tomb of Senwosret (758), Pit 763, burial of Senebtisi, MMA excavations, 1906–07 Faience, gold, carnelian, turquoise. Falcon heads and leaf pendants originally gilded plaster, restored in gilded silver. Eyes originally gilded beads restored in gilded plaster. Outside diam. 25 cm (9 13/16 in); max w. 7.5 cm (2 15/16 in). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1908

Large Brooch with Spirals, 1200–800 B.C. Made in Carpathian Basin region. Bronze, 10 15/16 x 4 x 2 9/16in. (27.8 x 10.2 x 6.5cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Caroline Howard Hyman Gift, in memory of Margaret English Frazer, 2000

Pair of Gold Earrings with Ganymede and the Eagle, Hellenistic, ca. 330–300 B.C. Gold, rock crystal, emerald, H. 2 3/8 in. (6 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1937

Jeweled Bracelets, 500–700. Made in probably Constantinople Gold, silver, pearl, amethyst, sapphire, opal, glass, quartz, emerald plasma Overall: 1 7/16 x 3 1/4 in. (3.7 x 8.2 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1917

Marriage Necklace (Thali), late 19th century, India (Tamil Nadu, Chetiar). Gold strung on black thread. Bottom of central bead to end of counterweight: L. 33 1/4 in. (84.5 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Cynthia Hazen Polsky, 1991

Pendant (Marangga), 19th–early 20th century, Indonesia, Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara. Gold, L. 12 5/8 in. (32.1cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Muriel Kallis Newman Gift, in Memory of Kathleen H. Newton, and Rogers Fund, 1988

“To fully understand the power of jewelry, it is not enough to look at it as miniature sculpture,” stated Melanie Holcomb, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters. “While jewelry is ubiquitous, the cultures of the world differ widely regarding where on the body it should be worn. By focusing on jewelry’s interaction with—and agency upon—the human body, this exhibition brings in a key element that has been missing in previous studies of the subject.”

The exhibition represents a dynamic, collaborative partnership of six curators—lead curator Melanie Holcomb, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, consulting curator Beth Carver Wees, the Ruth Bigelow Wriston Curator of American Decorative Arts, The American Wing; Kim Benzel, Curator in Charge, Department of Ancient Near Eastern Art; Diana Craig Patch, the Lila Acheson Wallace Curator in Charge, Department of Egyptian Art; Soyoung Lee, the Landon and Lavinia Chief Curator, Harvard Art Museums; and Joanne Pillsbury, the Andrall E. Pearson Curator, Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas—assisted by Hannah Korn, Collections Management Coordinator, Medieval Art and The Cloisters, with Moira Gallagher, Research Assistant, The American Wing.

Images courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.