“Fulco and I have tried to discover whether it was the jewel that was for painting or painting for the jewel. We are sure, however, that they were born for each other; it’s a love marriage.” -Salvador Dalí
Back in the early 1940’s, the celebrated and successful jewelry designer Duke Fulco di Verdura was invited to the Virginia plantation manor of Caresse Crosby, affectionately known as the “literary godmother to the Lost Generation of expatriate writers in Paris,” to meet the playful and enigmatic Surrealist master Salvador Dalí. Expecting to find a grand and elegant Southern estate, befitting a glamorous socialite, Verdura instead found a ramshackle old manor. Verdura was lead into the back sitting room, where it was incredibly cold and everyone was bundled up in great overcoats. Dali kept insisting that this depilated, uncomfortable, decrepit room was “the atelier of Picasso,” implying a certain transcendental dignity to all the filth. Finally, Dalí admitted that it all was an elaborate prank to shock Verdura, and he gleefully confessed that he had spent days setting the scene.
Verdura immensely enjoyed the elaborate and imaginative joke and this strange meeting cemented the creative working relationship between these brilliant artists. The two began collaborating on a collection of six pieces of jewelry using their shared common interests of the Renaissance and ancient Greek and Roman mythology. Many of the larger jewelry pieces featured small drawings by Dalí that were set in a custom-designed gold Verdura setting, replete with turquoise and rubies: a beautiful Surrealist synthesis.
Their incredible collaboration of jewels debuted as a unique exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1941. The show displayed these precious treasures alongside Dalí’s paintings thereby pushing the boundaries of both art and jewelry as mediums of self-expression.
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