Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Alexander Calder (1898-1976)

Untitled (Necklace)

Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
Untitled (Necklace)
silver wire and cord
3¾ x 15 in. (9.5 x 38.1 cm.)
Executed circa 1940.
Atlantic Antic, Brooklyn
Acquired from the above by the present owner
New York, Museum of Modern Art, Alexander Calder: Sculptures and Constructions, September 1943-January 1944, n.p. (illustrated in the group photo).

Lot Essay

This work is registered in the archives of the Calder Foundation, New York, under the application number A25853.

Alexander Calder's spectacular necklace, a classic work of the early 1940s, is as extraordinary in provenance as it is in aesthetic and design. Found in a flea market vendor along Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue, it was displayed amidst the bric-a-brac curios and purchased for a mere $15. The owner was unaware of the work's remarkable origins until she saw a similar necklace on the cover of Philadelphia Weekly announcing the Philadelphia Art Museum's exhibit, "Calder Jewelry." After contacting the exhibition's curator, Elisabeth Agro, she brought it to the Calder Foundation in New York, where it was registered into the archive.
With its refined swirls and light, graceful construction, the necklace derives from Calder's years living in Paris, where he found inspiration in the late Bronze Age artifacts and African sculpture exhibited in local museums. Absorbing the iconography of ancient and exotic cultures, he transformed the motifs into his own, thoroughly modern spiral. According to his grandson, Calder "instinctively filtered forms patterns and symbols from organic sources and early societies into his pieces often connecting the wearier to something primal" (A.S.C. Rower, Calder Jewelry, exh. cat. Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, 2005, p. 17).
Though the necklace draws on the traditions of ancient and exotic cultures, its avant-garde design converges closely with the aesthetics and materials of the modern age: the work's crisp geometric forms echo the designs of Art Deco, while its unpainted, bare surfaces champion the triumphs of industrial progress. Calder was against, however, mass manufacturing his artwork, and instead he hand tooled each piece--preserving the hammer marks on metal surfaces to emphasize the connection between the maker and his material.
Jewelry was perhaps the most personal of all his work, as they were made as individual gifts to family and friends. Famous recipients included artists Joan Miró and Georgia O'Keefe, legendary art dealer Peggy Guggenheim, and actress Jeanne Moreau. This dazzling necklace, carefully assembled and adorned in Calder's iconic motifs, suggests an equally captivating narrative--evermore so for its serendipitous discovery at a Brooklyn flea market.

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