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Exhibitions/ Jewelry: The Body Transformed/ Welcome to the Exhibition

Jewelry: The Body Transformed

At The Met Fifth Avenue
November 12, 2018–February 24, 2019

Welcome to the Exhibition

View of first gallery

Jewelry is the world's oldest art form, predating cave paintings by tens of thousands of years. Throughout history and across cultures, it has served to extend and amplify the human body, accentuating, enhancing, distorting, and transforming it. Traversing time and place, this exhibition explores what jewelry is, why we wear it, and how it activates the body it adorns—probing in the process a fundamental aspect of what it is to be human.

What connects a flashing nose ornament from the ancient Andes to a lustrous strand of Parisian pearls or an ivory cuff for a Benin king? All are precious objects made specially for the body, a setting like no other. The exhibition begins with a nod to that crucial relationship, presenting in the first gallery (pictured above) an array of ways that humans throughout history have embellished the head and hair; nose, lips, and ears; neck, chest, and waist; arms and hands; and ankles and feet.

The exhibition then unfolds thematically through a series of vignettes—remarkable excerpts from a global history of jewelry. These groupings of objects highlight the various kinds of transformations jewelry enables. Cultures and time periods collide, stimulating comparative thinking about these works of art, as we look beyond their dazzling forms to discover often overlooked meanings.

Explore the five thematic areas of the exhibition and view selected artworks from each:

The Divine Body
The Regal Body
The Transcendent Body
The Alluring Body
The Resplendent Body