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Jewelry: The Body Transformed

Various authors
280 pages
280 illustrations
9 x 10 in.
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As an art form, jewelry is defined primarily through its connection to and interaction with the body—extending it, amplifying it, accentuating it, distorting it, concealing it, or transforming it. Addressing six different modes of the body—Adorned, Divine, Regal, Transcendent, Alluring, and Resplendent—this artfully designed catalogue illustrates how these various definitions of the body give meaning to the jewelry that adorns and enhances it. Essays on topics spanning a wide range of times and cultures establish how jewelry was used as a symbol of power, status, and identity, from earflares of warrior heroes in Precolumbian Peru to bowknot earrings designed by Yves Saint-Laurent. These most intimate works of art provide insight into the wearers, but also into the cultures that produced them.

More than 200 jewels and ornaments, alongside paintings and sculptures of bejeweled bodies, demonstrate the social, political, and aesthetic role of jewelry from ancient times to the present. Gorgeous new illustrations of Bronze Age spirals, Egyptian broad collars, Hellenistic gold armbands, Japanese courtesan hair adornments, jewels from Mughal India, and many, many more explore the various facets of jewelry and its relationship to the human body over 5,000 years of world history.

Shaivite Saint, Copper, India (Tamil Nadu, Madurai region)
India (Tamil Nadu, Madurai region)
11th century
Mechanic Tattooing, Unknown, Albumen silver print from glass negative with applied color
Madonna and Child with Saints Philip and Agnes, Donato de' Bardi  Italian, Tempera on wood, gold ground
Donato de' Bardi
ca. 1425–30
Armor of Henry II, King of France (reigned 1547–59), Jean Cousin the Elder  French, Steel, gold, silver, leather, textile, French, possibly Paris
Jean Cousin the Elder
Baptiste Pellerin
ca. 1555
Brooch, Tiffany & Co., Gold, pearls, black enamel, and hair, American
Tiffany & Co.
Diadem with Kinnaris (Half-Bird, Half-Female Creatures), Gold inset with garnet, India (Jammu & Kashmir, ancient kingdom of Kashmir)
India (Jammu & Kashmir, ancient kingdom of Kashmir)
9th–10th century
Comb (yisanunu), Wood, Yaka peoples
Yaka peoples
19th–20th century
Head ornament, Gold, rubies, pearls, cat's-eyes, iron, China
Wig rings of Sithathoryunet, on a modern wig, Gold
ca. 1887–1813 B.C.
Headband with Heads of Gazelles and a Stag Between Stars or Flowers, Gold
ca. 1648–1540 B.C.
Nose Ornament with Shrimp, Gold, silver, stone, Moche
6th–7th century
Nose Ornament, Gold, Sonso
13th–16th century
Pair of Ear Ornaments with Winged Runners, Gold, turquoise, sodalite, shell, Moche
400–700 CE
Serpent Labret with Articulated Tongue, Gold, Aztec
1300–1521 CE
Earring (one of a pair), Gold, Korea
6th century
Earring (one of a pair), Gold, Korea
6th century
Circular Ear Ornaments with Curving Appendages, Gold, Indonesia (Java)
Indonesia (Java)
8th–early 10th century
Gold and copper alloy spiral earring with lion-griffin head terminal, Gold, Greek, Cypriot
Greek, Cypriot
1st half of the 4th century BCE
Gold spiral earring with lion-griffin terminal, Gold, Greek, Cypriot
Greek, Cypriot
ca. 400–350 BCE
Man's Ear Ornaments (Batling), Hornbill ivory, metal, shell, glass beads, Ilongot people
Ilongot people
late 19th–early 20th century
Showing 20 of 295

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Holcomb, Melanie, Kim Benzel, So-yŏng Yi, Diana Craig Patch, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, eds. 2018. Jewelry: The Body Transformed. New York: The Met, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.