A phoenix-shaped hairpin used by Empress Wanrong of the Qing Dynasty and a flamingo brooch that the Duchess of Windsor bought in 1940 are among the valuable jewels that will soon be on display at the National Palace Museum, the museum announced yesterday.
An international collaboration among the museum, the Cartier Collection from France and Shenyang Palace Museum in China, the three-month-long exhibition, titled “Royal Style: Qing Dynasty and Western Court Jewelry,” features 466 pieces of jewelry that once belonged the imperial court of Qing Dynasty and Western aristocrats.
Cartier, the French jeweler and watch manufacturer, has contributed 232 pieces, while 160 items are drawn from the National Palace Museum’s vaults. The Shenyang Palace Museum has contributed 74 imperial jewels and accessories, most of which were owned by Pu Yi (溥儀), the last emperor of China, his empress and concubines.
National Palace Museum Director Chou Kung-shin (周功鑫) said the show is the fruit of four years of preparations and discussions.
“Cartier approached us in 2008, offering a chance to collaborate. There is no doubt that Cartier has a rich history and culture, but we also wanted to take the chance to give visitors new, different ideas and promote cultural exchanges,” Chou told a press conference.
One of the goals the National Palaca Museum is trying to achieve through the exhibition is to encourage visitors to appreciate the life stories of those who once wore the gems, she said.
The highlighted jade pendant, for example, was worn by Empress Wanrong for her wedding to 16-year-old Pu Yi at the Forbidden City in 1922. When Pu Yi was forced out of the palace in 1924, he took a large amount of jewelry with him.
However, only 454 works remain, which were later donated to the Shenyang Palace Museum, according to Yang Xiaodong (楊小東), the museum’s deputy director.
The featured Cartier pieces include a platinum tiara studded with diamonds that the jeweler made for Queen Elisabeth of Belgium, also known as Elisabeth of Bavaria, in 1910.
The famous flamingo-shaped brooch of the Duchess of Windsor, for whom British King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936, features emeralds, rubies, sapphires, citrines and diamonds. The Collection Cartier bought back the brooch for ￡1.7 million (more than US$2.6 million) at a Sotheby’s auction in 2010.
The organizers were mum on the cost of insurance for the jewelry on display.
The exhibition opens on Saturday and runs through Sept. 9 in the museum’s Library Building.