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Alexander Calder: Playful and Artful Jewelry

Untitled (Pin), Alexander Calder, 1939 (Lot 672, Estimate $20,000-$30,000)

This brooch by Alexander Calder is one of my favorite items in the September 10, 2013 Fine Jewelry auction at Skinner. Calder was known for his sense of design, and in this case the piece is handmade from brass with the slightest touch of silver. Calder rarely soldered his jewelry, instead joining pieces of metal with loops or sections of wire. The stem of this pin coils in a quirky, exaggerated fashion that is both playful and artful – it’s a beautiful piece that has never been on the market.

The pin by itself is fantastic, but what seals the deal for me is the letter that accompanies the jewelry.

A letter from Alexander Calder to the pin’s original owner

Henry Sayles Francis, curator of prints and paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art from 1930-1970, commissioned the brooch for his wife, Frances M. Francis.

After completing the brooch, Alexander Calder wrote a letter to Mr. Francis in his hand and on his own stationary. Signed and dated December 18, 1939, the letter reads:

Dear Mr. Francis,

I never heard whether you received the pin or not, and or whether or not it was satisfactory. I trust, both. But would you kindly let know that it did arrive? (Mailed Nov. 24th)

Yours, Alexander Calder

Calder comes across as both innocent and respectful. When you read this letter and hold this brooch, you feel a connection both to the work of art and the artist who created it. I hope you will stop by the auction preview on September 8th and 9th to view this and many other fine pieces of jewelry in person.

The back of the pin reveals Calder’s workmanship and sense of design (Lot 672, Estimate $20,000-$30,000)

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