Necklace, 20th century Ida ou Semlal Morocco Silver, amber, beads, coins Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

The Necklace and the Many Messages it Sends about the Wearer

Necklace Miao, China Torque, silver Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Tiffany & Co. Lorgnette and chain Platinum, glass, diamonds Photo courtesy of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Lei niho palaoa (whale-tooth necklace) Hawaii First half of 19th century Human hair, walrus ivory, plant fibers Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Arts.


Minneapolis Institute of Arts
2400 Third Avenue South
Unspoken Messages:
The Art of the Necklace
June 6-September 13, 2009

The Art of the Necklace features jewelry from many of the world’s cultures and made with a variety of materials, including ivory, hair, gold, jade, shell, coral, glass, metal, and marble, as well as precious gems. The exhibition showcases the Minneapolis Institute of Arts’ recent acquisition of an exceptional early 19th-century Hawaiian necklace made of woven human hair and ivory along with other necklaces in the museum’s collection.The jewelry is accompanied by a selection of prints, engravings, and photographs that illustrate how fine-quality necklaces have served as self-ornamentation and as symbols of personal belief for thousands of years in many diverse cultures.

Unspoken Messages puts the complex beauty of the necklace front and center. Like other articles of adornment, the necklace communicates many messages about the wearer, among them wealth and status, through the use of precious materials and elaborate designs. Necklaces also encode concepts of cosmopolitanism and worldview, along with cultural and religious beliefs.

Exhibition highlights include the fascinating Necklace (Lei Niho Palaoa) from Hawaii, mentioned above; a 1st-3rd century necklace from the Mediterranean, finely crafted from glass, gold, stone, and ceramic beads; an exquisite 19th-century piece by Tiffany & Co., Lorgnette and Chain, of platinum, diamonds, and glass; a beautiful coral and gold necklace from 19th-century France; Necklace with Half-Moon Pendant from the Solomon Islands; a necklace from Morocco of silver, amber, beads, and coins; a spectacular early 19th-century piece from India, Gowri Shankaram Necklace, festooned with Rudraksha berries, gold, rubies, and garnets; an Apsaalooka (Crow) Loop Necklace made from animal hide, beads, shell, metal, and plant fiber; a necklace from the Southwestern United States necklace of coral, silver, and turquoise; a silver Miao torque from China; and a necklace of glass, seed pearls, and satin by famed French artist René Lalique.

The prints featured in the show include Edward Steichen’s gelatin silver print of Mae West (1933); a sixteenth-century engraving from the Netherlands of Elizabeth, Queen of England by Crispin de Passe the Elder; an oil from 15th-century Italy by Benedetto Ghirlandaio Portrait of a Lady, among others.

Attributed to, Crispin van de Passe I, Elizabeth I, an engraving from a book frontispiece, 1596.

Edward Steichen (American (born Luxembourg), 1879-1973), Mae West, from Vanity Fair, May 1933, Gelatin silver print, Bequest of Edward Steichen by direction of Joanna T. Steichen and George Eastman House 82.28.67, Permission of Joanna T. Steichen.

François Kollar (French (born Czechoslovakia), 1904-1979),
Untitled, 1937, Gelatin silver print, Gift of Virginia Zabriskie 83.154.19.

Benedetto Ghirlandaio, Portrait of a Lady, 15th century, oil on panel, Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Coral necklace Coral, gold Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Institute of Arts.