Sunday, January 5, 2014

Just a Couple of Culture Vultures

Every now and then, a goil needs a bit of culture.

Ya know?

So we figgered, to get us some, where better to go than the Metropolitan Museum of Art, right?  We seen - oh, sorry - we saw - Interwoven Globe, on the worldwide textile trade from 1500 - 1800,

and Jewels by JAR (that's Joel Arthur Rosenthal), where there were enough pavĂ© diamonds to pave our living room floors with. (Sorry. Sometimes bad puns are sooo irresistible.)

But first, being who we are, we had to interact with our surroundings.  Jean got down and got funky with this ancient panting lion,

and Valerie aligned herself with Cleopatra's Needle, barely visible in the background, in snow-covered Central Park.

The exhibition of Jewels by JAR, a Bronx native who has worked in Paris for more than 35 years, is the first retrospective of his work in America and includes more than 400 one-of-a-kind masterworks. Over-the-top is what comes to mind when we think of his work, as evidenced by this 1994 butterfly brooch. (Think of him as the Bob Mackie of jewelry.)  He is known for his sculptural designs in vibrant colors covered in precious stones: wild rose and weeping willow earrings; raspberry, leek and asparagus brooches.  JAR is not for the shy or faint of heart.  Or budget.

His 1999 colored ball necklace uses rubies, sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, spinels, garnets, opals, tourmalines, aquamarines, citrines, diamonds, silver and gold.

Our favorite pieces in the show tended to be the less ostentatious (relatively speaking, of course) and more classic pieces, incorporating non-traditional materials like aluminum, titanium, steel, wood, silver darkened by chemical processes -- and even beetle wings!

These 2010 Over The Moon earrings are made of diamonds, aluminum and gold.

Jean's favorite was this 2012 Lightning necklace of aluminum, diamonds, silver, platinum and gold.

In terms of glitz, the textile show was a 180-degree turn from the jewelry exhibit, but the craftsmanship, creativity and relative expense on display were well matched to JAR's.  The textiles were all so-called trade textiles - made in one place to be sold in another - from approximately the 1500s to the 1800s, during the heyday of the international shipping industry.  So we saw Chinese textiles woven for the French market, Indian embroidery for the English market, and Japanese textiles for the Dutch market, among countless other wonderful items.  The textile show closed January 5, so we just made it in under the wire.   (Missed the exhibition?  Order the book!)

The designs on this fabric for this early 18th century cotton men's morning gown, or banyan, made on the so-called Coromandel Coast of India for the Dutch market, were done with a combination of painted resist and mordant dye.  The trim at the hem was not sewn on but was actually woven into the design.  The attention to detail and the workmanship in this (as in many other pieces in the show) are mind-boggling.  In paintings and illustrations of the period, a large number of men were shown in their banyans (and often in accompanying caps).  Because they were made of hard-to-get imported materials, banyans were a way of showing some acquaintance with the world at large, and thus a sign of sophistication, intellect and economic stature.

Made in the Netherlands of cotton and linen, and based on Indonesian batiks of the time, the fabric for this wonderfully cut, nipped waist jacket (caraco) features a dark green background to appeal to the Dutch market.  Don't you want to run out now and get a jacket with a peplum like that?

This Dutch cotton coat (wentke) dating from 1720-40 was beautifully crafted and in amazing condition.  You can also see the front-view of the green jacket.  These three were Valerie's faves.

Near the end of the exhibition, Pamela stopped us and introduced herself.  Turns out she is a fan of ours, and was kind enough to thank us for encouraging women to dress according to their individual tastes.  Wow!  Something like that makes our day!  But Pamela clearly doesn't need any encouragement from us.  She's wearing an asymmetrical polka dotted dress (by Heydari) with striped leggings and a wonderful hair style.  And is it a trick of the camera, or is she carrying a purple cane?  You go, girl!

After a tough day fighting the crowds at the museum, we gingerly braved the slush remaining from Saturday's blizzard. (Valerie had already slipped the day before on marble flooring with both hands landing in a puddle of icy salty slush, and Jean had done some serious sideways sliding).  Too bad nobody bothered to tell us try-outs for the Winter Olympics closed months ago -- Valerie was perfecting her death spiral and Jean, her triple axel! Miraculously, we made it safely to Bar Pleiades at The Surrey Hotel for a little pick-me-up.
Valerie's drink takes the blue ribbon for best-named cocktail of the month (so far): "The Last Caress".  (Doesn't that sound like the name of a detective novel from the Philip Marlowe series?)  Definitely not a macho-man type of libation, it featured shaved frozen chartreuse and three tiny but flavorful juniper berries (two visible above), topped with bubbly.   But when we say topped with bubbly, we mean the barista came to our table to complete the drink by pouring in the bubbly as we watched.  Cocktails as theater!  The complimentary cocktail snacks were delicious: assorted, pitted olives; fresh taro chips and assorted nuts.  (Oh, we should have mentioned -  it's a Daniel Boulud bar.)

Jean was shocked (shocked!) to find the seasonal cocktail menu had NO tequila-based drinks (but did have no less than four made with rye!).  Luckily, our waitress successfully persuaded the bartender to accede to Jean's request to substitute tequila for pisco in the PXCO Punch, which also contained pineapple and lime juice and some other tasty items.  It was quite the treat!

Thus fortified, we went through our photographs from the day, made our blog selections and then headed out into the early evening to brave the icy streets and head homeward.

And now for a little culture test for our readers:

In the opening photograph, Valerie and Jean are standing in front of:

a) an Ionic column
b) a Corinthian column
c) a Doric column
d) a Hedda Hopper column

Use the comment button to send in your answer!

What we're wearing:

Valerie is wearing: white felted hat from Strawberry, red leather and wood brooch by Tereza Symon's mom, red target earrings from Etsy, unlabeled vintage sweater from a flea market, Comme des Garcons pants, Sou-Sou sneakers.

Jean is wearing: a Maria del Greco hat with vintage resin cicada pin (birthday gift from Valerie; look under the big M); black & white Nuno scarf; Costume National jacket; Eileen Fisher harem pants; Ariat boots; High Use coat; vintage bakelite and gold rings.


  1. It's IONIC, because of the scrolls....Yep, I took Art History at University! You culture-vultures, you. I want the full length Dutch cotton coat (just how heavy is the security at that exhibit?)

  2. I think I'll listen to Shelly and say Ionic too. (Thanks Shelly!) The textiles are out of this world. I appreciate the link to the book!! I saw the jewelry on IG but It's even more impressive here when seen a little larger. You both look marvelous and I'm glad you survived the slippery slope, literally. XXOO

  3. Beautiful textiles! Wonderful cocktails! Lousy weather. Ionic. xxoo

  4. Laughed out loud at your Winter Olympic try-out attempts! You kids are intrepid but take it easy out there--it's winter! I agree--Ionic.
    jill in Ontario

  5. Definitively ionic.

  6. The Ionic (scrolls).
    Love, love, love the caraco jacket!!!