Bulgari Celebrates 125 years of Italian Magnificence

by 10 November 2010

On December 9, 2010, the Grand Palais will host the opening of a retrospective exhibition devoted to Bulgari, the Roman jewelry house that celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. Housed in the museum's nave, the exhibition has been organized under the high patronage of the Office of the President of the Italian Republic and the Italian Prime Minister's Office, and will be open to the public from December 10 through January 12, 2011. It will be the first large-scale retrospective by a jewelry house at the Grand Palais.

Entitled "125 years of Italian Magnificence," the exhibition will retrace the main chapters in Bulgari's history and the evolution of the esthetic that made the brand a driving force of the "Italian school," from the opening of the first shop on Via Sistina in 1884 through the modern day. This fascinating saga will be illustrated by more than 600 masterpieces of jewelry, watch- and clockmaking, and the decorative arts, including some one hundred exclusive pieces that will be on public display for the first time. Certain pieces come from the collection of the Bulgari Museum, an exceptional trove of historic treasures conserved in the company's archives, while others are from private collections. Visitors will be able to admire three pieces owned by the Grimaldi family, including a necklace that belonged to Princess Grace.

The exhibition consists of eight sections arranged in chronological order. The visitor's path will start with a collection of silver objects created in the late 19th century by Sotirio Bulgari, a Greek silversmith blessed with a creative mind and keen business sense. Having traveled to Rome to seek his fortune, in 1884 he laid the foundation of what was to become one of the world's greatest jewelry houses. These pieces are the only remaining examples from Bulgari's earliest days, in a style that shows classical, Ottoman and Byzantine influences.

The final section of the exhibition under the glass dome of the Grand Palais will feature an astonishing structure of mirrors fitted together to form an immense diamond. The continuity of the Bulgari style in the 2000s will be represented by a selection of pieces, including a stunning necklace adorned with a Burmese sapphire of more than 321 carats.

In addition to jewelry and watch designs, the retrospective will also showcase a collection of documents, many on public display for the first time, including sketches and drawings from various periods as well as a selection of photos of the artists, aristocrats and celebrities who have fallen under the charm of the house's jewelry since its founding. An entire section will be devoted to the Dolce Vita years, with portraits and quotes of the big stars of the time, sketches of jewels worn on screen by legendary actresses, and other documents illustrating the close ties between Bulgari and the art of cinema, a partnership that began in the 1940s and continues to this day.

But the real stars of this section will be the jewels themselves, spectacular creations worn by Anna Magnani, Monica Vitti, Claudia Cardinale, Sophia Loren, Romy Schneider, Ingrid Bergman and Gina Lollobrigida, as well as Empress Soraya of Persia.

All of the pieces in the exhibition have been carefully researched, including consultation of historical and scientific sources, by Amanda Triossi, director of the retrospective and author of the accompanying catalogue (320 pages of documentation and photographs, published by Skira). Triossi, who manages the archives of the house of Bulgari as well as its Vintage collection since 1997, has also authored two monographs (1995 and 2007) dedicated to the house's history.

Grand Palais
Avenue Winston Churchill
75008 Paris