In all its ‘Gilded’ glory

It’s already been a few weeks, but I can still vividly recall the way I felt when I first stepped into the new Tiffany & Co. Foundation Gallery at the Museum of the City of New York.

I was down at the museum for the press preview of “Gilded New York” and had a feeling the exhibition, which continues through Nov. 30, 2014, was going to be stunning.

After all, it’s an exploration of New York during the Gilded Age (1885-1905), the era of Vanderbilts and Astors, of French-made ball gowns and calling cards held in engraved cases, of diamond tiaras and stately Fifth Avenue mansions.

And MCNY didn’t disappoint.

The period’s splendor is vividly translated in the gallery, a place you’ll want to spend more than just a few moments. I had the pleasure of speaking with all three of the exhibition’s curators, Donald Albrecht (the museum’s curator of architecture and design); Phyllis Magidson (the museum’s curator of costumes and textiles); and Jeannine Falino, an independent curator who happens to live in New Rochelle.

They offered an entertaining and informative walk through the show, which is itself a visual treasure trove of fashions and home accessories, paintings and sculpture and jewelry and personal accessories such as fans, canes and pocket watches. (Read the full story in our current issue, where it fits right into the “Gems” – and all things dazzling – theme).

A companion to the exhibition is the book “Gilded New York: Design, Fashion, and Society,” edited by Albrecht and Falino and co-published by the museum with The Monacelli Press. The design of the lavish publication, especially its charming use of fanciful scrollwork accents, evokes the era in delightful detail.

Essays take you further in depth, with chapters devoted to topics ranging from “A Fashionable Equation: Maison Worth and the Clothes of the Gilded Age” by Magidson to “Like a Glimpse of Gay Old Versailles: Three Gilded Age Balls” by Susan Gail Johnson.

You’ll surely enjoy the countless historical photographs that take you right back in time. Among the highlights are images of design icon Elsie de Wolfe lounging on pillows in 1896, a detail of a souvenir fan and dance card from a 1903 ball, an elaborately detailed Crown Derby Porcelain Co. vase from 1875 and a two-page photograph of the exquisite Grand Salon of the Cornelius Vanderbilt II house, circa 1894.

All dazzling indeed.

In addition to the usual outlets, the book is available in the main-floor shop of the museum, on Fifth Avenue (at 103rd Street) in Manhattan. For more, visit mcny.org or monacellipress.com.

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