The great Isadora Duncan (1877 - 1927), renown stage actress who graced many a theatre with her dancing, and who is hailed as the mother of modern dancing, posed several times for the French artist and designer Rene Lalique. Duncan commissioned him to create stage jewellery for some of her most important performances. She received regular gifts of impressive jewellery from her many (male) admirers but it is said that one of her favourite accessories was a belt of hardstone cameos which was a gift made to her by gold miners in her native California.
The cameo is basically a carved relief image that is created and juxtaposed against a contrasting color background found in the material's lower layers. Cameos experienced a revival during the 1990s, which revival is somewhat still lingering as the penchant for shabby chic fashion remains alive and kicking. Beware when buying cameos however. If you're after the real thing, you need expert advice to be sure you are not being sold an imitation. These works of minute sculpture are made of so many different materials, ranging from jet or onyx to sardonyx, to coral, to shell, ceramics or multi-layered glass also referred to as cameo glass.
You could view the cameo in the picture above if you manage to visit the oldest French Museum.... if it remains open long enough, that is. The truth is that this museum risks closing down for good.
The Cabinet des Médailles et Antiques is the oldest French Museum. Open since the 17th century, it started as a means to display the treasures gathered by Kings of France. For centuries, collections of the highest grade (Caylus’ antiques, duke of Luynes donation, Froehner collection …) and French Revolution (Saint-Denis treasure …) have entered the museum. It is today particularly rich in Greek Ceramics, Glyptic, Coins, Roman Sculptures, gold and silver jewels and treasures, bronzes from every period, and all these collections make references in there areas.
Known nowadays as the Department of Coins, Medals and Antiques of the French national Library, the museum has unfortunately been weakened for a few years : its reduced exhibition space (540 m2) allows only a minimal part of the collections to be displayed, the resources are more than insufficient, and no publicity is made for it, even during the temporary exhibitions that have been organized. And maybe haven’t you even heard about it before ?
The future of the Cabinet des Médailles et Antiques is now raising growing concerns. The renovation project for the National Library of France’s Richelieu site in Paris plans the disappearance of the Museum altogether. The Association for the Safeguard of the Museum of Medals and Antiques was thus created in January 2010 to ensure its defense and to encourage its development.
You are welcome to join up!
Sign the petition here.
So if you're in Paris just now or if you're planning to be there any time this summer, vist the Musée du Cabinet des médailles et antiques - BnF - 58, rue de Richelieu 75002 Paris.