Girls in Pearls – Claudia Lanfranconi

8 March 2011

I have been after this book for a while so was pretty thrilled to pick it up on Amazon Marketplace the other day! It really doesn’t disappoint at all either as it’s packed full of beautiful images of women painted with pearls, accompanied by an elegant, interesting summary of the paintings as well as the cultural history of pearls throughout the centuries.

It covers society ladies, children’s jewellery, pearls in Christian art, courtesans, princesses, queens, divas and icons – all of whom are linked by their love of the lustrous beauty of pearls.

I really recommend this one to anyone who is interested in art history, portraiture, nice paintings of pretty ladies and er serious jewellery. That’s most of you then!

Women and pearls – this is a story that deserves its own chapter in the history of jewellery, in the history of art and, of course, in the biographies of the women who wore the jewels. The Egyptian queen Cleopatra destroyed one of her valuable pearl earrings in order to seduce the Roman commander Mark Antony. In England, after Elizabeth I had Mary, Queen of Scots beheaded in 1587, she promptly took possession of her cousin’s magnificent jewels. And arguably one of the most agitated moments of the actress Elizabeth Taylor’s life was when a pekineses ran off with her precious pearl pendant…‘ — Claudia Lanfranconi, introduction to Girls in Pearls.

Bianca de’ Medici, Bronzino, 1542.

Eleanora de’ Toledo and her son Don Giovanni de’ Medici, Bronzino, 1550.

Kitty Fisher, Reynolds, 1759.

Caroline Murat, Vigée-Lebrun, 1807.

Maria of Bavaria, Stieler, 1826.

Olga Nikolayevna of Wurttemberg, Winterhalter, 1865.

Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna, Winterhalter, 1857.

Princess Eulalia of Spain, Boldini, 1898.

Coco Chanel, Man Ray, 1934/5.

Marilyn Monroe, unknown photographer, 1950s.