October 12, 2011

A royal treat in Amsterdam

Silk baby booties made for the birth of Princess Juliana, 1908
Manufactured by luxury shoemaker Dortmond Pennock, Kaatsheuvel, North Brabant

One of the most delightful and unexpected components of Meesterlijk in Amsterdam was an exhibition by the fair's curator, Nicole Uniquole. The collection of historical objects was culled from the Dutch Royal Archives, and installed to create an immediate dialogue with the artists whose work was on view in all the surrounding booths. Luxury items or bespoke designs, once limited to only the most wealthy individuals, are available to a much wider audience today. Custom or limited-edition pieces don't necessarily have to cost a fortune, and working directly with an artist to create something for oneself is a remarkably easy -- and absolutely enlightening -- experience.

The exhibition was also a preview of a larger show that Uniquole is planning at Oranienbaum Palace in Germany next year. The show will combine contemporary Dutch design with pieces from the royal collection, celebrating centuries of unparalleled craftsmanship. The link, you ask? The late-17th century palace was built by a German prince for his Dutch princess bride, and has been newly restored under the patronage of the Netherlands's Queen Beatrix.

Snuff box in the form of a pug, made for Princess Anna of Hanover, circa 1730
Agate, gold and diamonds

Powder case, 18th century
Bone, gold
Porcelain cups and saucers, n.d. 
Made at Anna Paulowna, North Holland

Rattle given by the city of Orange on the birth of Juliana, Queen of the Netherlands (1909-2004), April 30, 1909
Maker unknown
Silver, gold, and amber

Fan embroidered with the Alliance Arms of Emma, Queen of the Netherlands (1858-1934)
Made at Boval De Beck, Manufacture Royale de Dentelles, Paris, circa 1880
Brussels lace, mother of pearl, gold, silver, and silk

The most jaw-dropping piece in the exhibition was a diamond and ruby court fan (below), made by the Parisian firm Mellerio dits Meller in 1888. It's part of a parure, which makes it all the more extraordinary. Every night the fan was removed from its vitrine and placed into a vault, whose giant key was secured to Uniqole's purse. "I asked if they wanted me to swallow it," she joked. The diamonds were so dazzlingly sparkly that my camera couldn't focus.


For a peek at the restored palace and more information on the 2012 show, click here.

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