Great Fortune on Both Sides of the Pond

By DR. ROSIE MILLS, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Associate Curator, Decorative Arts and Design, LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) have collaborated since 2010 to bring more than fifty works from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection back to California. Among the most extraordinary collections of European decorative arts formed in the 20th century, the collection of Sir Arthur Gilbert (1913–2001) left Los Angeles in 1996 for London where it found a long-term home at the V&A. The Gilberts met in London in 1930, married in 1934, and opened a dressmaking business. A runaway success, the couple retired after only fifteen years, moving to Los Angeles in 1949.

The collection comprises some 1,200 items of gold, silver, painted enamel, and mosaic that Arthur and his first wife, Rosalinde, insisted were “not for us, but for everyone.” Their philanthropic example continues to inspire the collection’s custodians. From a 19th-century classical revival finger ring with mosaic decoration to a pair of gilded silver gates from the sanctuary of a church in Kiev, or a solid gold Russian tea service to a Japanese porcelain teapot with German silver mounts, works were carefully selected for this transatlantic loan for display side by side with objects from LACMA’s own holdings.

This special relationship encouraged additional growth in LACMA’s collection through some notable acquisitions. In 2010, in memory of Sir Gilbert’s birthday, Lady Marjorie Gilbert, Arthur’s second wife and widow, presented LACMA with one of the first boxes he ever collected. The exceptionally fine lid is decorated in the medium of ‘micromosaic’, a phrase Arthur coined to describe the use of thousands of minute glass tesserae.

When a monumental silver vase with candelabra branches made in the 1820s by the London firm Barnards recently returned to London for study and display, both The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation and Lady Gilbert underwrote the purchase of another vase also designed after Giovanni Battista Piranesi’sprints of Roman antiqui­ties. Though more modest in scale, the replacement vase’s significance to LACMA was enormous, for in 1951, the famous newspaper magnate and collector William Randolph Hearst donated the ancient model recorded in Piranesi’s print. In 2016, the Gilbert Foundation helped LACMA reunite a set of three two-han­dled silver cups separated at auction, which once again form an impressive garniture.

A selection of magnificent pieces from the Gilbert Collection remains in the V&A collection and trotted the globe from 2014 to 2016 during construction work at the museum’s main site in South Kensington. Exhibitions of gold boxes went to LACMA and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, while masterworks of British silver joined exhibitions in Germany and Hong Kong. On the evening of November 15, 2016, the V&A’s four sumptuous rooms dedicated to the Gilbert Collection reopened with much celebration and press coverage. Sir Gilbert’s collection will continue to receive its due on two continents!

UPCOMING EVENTS

By DR. ROSIE MILLS, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Associate Curator, Decorative Arts and Design, LACMA

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) have collaborated since 2010 to bring more than fifty works from the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection back to California. Among the most extraordinary collections of European decorative arts formed in the 20th century, the collection of Sir Arthur Gilbert (1913–2001) left Los Angeles in 1996 for London where it found a long-term home at the V&A. The Gilberts met in London in 1930, married in 1934, and opened a dressmaking business. A runaway success, the couple retired after only fifteen years, moving to Los Angeles in 1949.

The collection comprises some 1,200 items of gold, silver, painted enamel, and mosaic that Arthur and his first wife, Rosalinde, insisted were “not for us, but for everyone.” Their philanthropic example continues to inspire the collection’s custodians. From a 19th-century classical revival finger ring with mosaic decoration to a pair of gilded silver gates from the sanctuary of a church in Kiev, or a solid gold Russian tea service to a Japanese porcelain teapot with German silver mounts, works were carefully selected for this transatlantic loan for display side by side with objects from LACMA’s own holdings.

This special relationship encouraged additional growth in LACMA’s collection through some notable acquisitions. In 2010, in memory of Sir Gilbert’s birthday, Lady Marjorie Gilbert, Arthur’s second wife and widow, presented LACMA with one of the first boxes he ever collected. The exceptionally fine lid is decorated in the medium of ‘micromosaic’, a phrase Arthur coined to describe the use of thousands of minute glass tesserae.

When a monumental silver vase with candelabra branches made in the 1820s by the London firm Barnards recently returned to London for study and display, both The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation and Lady Gilbert underwrote the purchase of another vase also designed after Giovanni Battista Piranesi’sprints of Roman antiqui­ties. Though more modest in scale, the replacement vase’s significance to LACMA was enormous, for in 1951, the famous newspaper magnate and collector William Randolph Hearst donated the ancient model recorded in Piranesi’s print. In 2016, the Gilbert Foundation helped LACMA reunite a set of three two-han­dled silver cups separated at auction, which once again form an impressive garniture.

A selection of magnificent pieces from the Gilbert Collection remains in the V&A collection and trotted the globe from 2014 to 2016 during construction work at the museum’s main site in South Kensington. Exhibitions of gold boxes went to LACMA and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, while masterworks of British silver joined exhibitions in Germany and Hong Kong. On the evening of November 15, 2016, the V&A’s four sumptuous rooms dedicated to the Gilbert Collection reopened with much celebration and press coverage. Sir Gilbert’s collection will continue to receive its due on two continents!

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