THE ROCKEFELLER “MANY V’S” NECKLACE: A SILVER NECKLACE BY ALEXANDER CALDER, NEW YORK, CIRCA 1940
A necklace composed of v-shaped forms suspended from a necklace, all in hammered silver wire
- Measurements: 9 1/2 x 10 inches
- This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under number A16948.
- Perls Galleries, New York
- Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York
- Mary Rockefeller Morgan
- Mary Rockefeller Morgan Charitable Trust
- Rower, Alexander S. C., ed. Calder by Matter. Paris: Cahiers d’Art, 2013, p. 152.
- Sweeny, James Johnson. Alexander Calder. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1943, exh. cat. p. 53.
- Winebrenner, D. Kenneth. Jewelry Making as an Art Expression. Scranton: International Textbook Company, 1953, p. vi, fig. 1. Exhibitions Alexander Calder: Sculptures and Constructions, Museum of Modern Art, New York, September 1943–January 1944
Born into a family of artists in Pennsylvania in 1898, Alexander Calder eventually became one of the greatest American sculptors, known for a variety of genres including mobiles, brightly colored prints, and wire jewelry. Calder earned a degree in mechanical engineering before creating toys and the Cirque Calder in 1926. These artistic creations led to exhibitions of his wire sculptures. Throughout his life he created more than 1,800 fantastic pieces of jewelry by hand. He died in 1976.
Alexander Calder is best known for his delicately balanced mobiles that move in response to air or touch, but jewelry was his most personal and constant medium. He began creating wire forms in 1902, at the age of 8, for his sister’s dolls, and later often gifted jewelry to friends and collectors of his work. Each piece was designed and handmade by the artist, a unique combination of his hammering and the design aesthetic and grace contained in his large-scale works. Calder’s jewelry, bohemian but refined, was collected by fashionable art collectors including Peggy Guggenheim, Mary Rockefeller, and Millicent Rogers. Chicago collector Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman said of Calder jewelry in W magazine, “I was never particularly interested in precious jewels. I was always interested in the form and shape of things.”
This necklace belonged to Nelson A. Rockefeller, public servant, philanthropist and art collector. The only son of the founder of the Standard Oil Company, Rockefeller was the 41st Vice President of the United States under Gerald Ford, and served four, four-year terms as 49th Governor of New York between 1959 and 1973. He possessed a keen eye for art encouraged by his mother, Abigail Green Aldrich Rockefeller, the driving force behind the formation of the Museum of Modern Art. He maintained the family’s close connection with the Museum by serving as a trustee, treasurer and two terms as President between 1939 and 1941, and 1946 and 1953.
The “Many V’s” necklace, created of hammered silver wire suspending v-shapes with curled ends, displays the same sense of animation found in his mobiles and the geometry and dynamism found in his lithographs. Calder was inspired by primitive art, as can be seen in the form of this piece, but combined with his aesthetic and his practices of making, the jewel becomes a masterpiece of modern art.