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  • Beatrice Del Favero

BETWEEN A ROCK CRYSTAL AND A BERNINI:

Updated: Feb 2

The articles below, one in English and one in French, were jointly written by Beatrice Del Favero and Adèle Aribaud, art and jewelry afficionados living respectively in New York City and Paris. During the course of their conversations, Adele and Beatrice discuss art and jewelry trends on both sides of the Atlantic, whether art, jewelry, gemology or mineralogy. This first piece is dedicated to the multi-faceted Hester Diamond, at once a fierce collector of Old Masters paintings, 21st century design and spectacular minerals.


Hester Diamond Collection Bernini
Hester Diamond; "Autumn", sculpture by Pietro Bernini and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Rome, circa 1615-1618. ©Sotheby's

"Fearless", a perfect epithet for American collector Hester Diamond’s stunning exhibition, is not to be missed at Sotheby’s New York this month. Walking through this collection feels surprisingly like breezing through her perfectly appointed Upper West Side apartment. Hester Diamond, who recently died in January 2020, at the age of 91, built an astounding assemblage of old masters’ paintings and sculptures, boldly offset by a solid collection of 21st century design. The latter has received much attention over the years, but we are just beginning to discover her impressive selection of exotic minerals.


Indeed, Hester Diamond is unique in how she defied common practice, choosing to sell her modern masters in order to acquire Renaissance pieces instead: a Mondrian for a Veronese, a Picasso for two Flemish and two Ferrarrese. Towards the late 1980's, her taste had further evolved as she began purchasing Baroque pieces, notably a sculpture, carved in 1616 by father and son duo, the Baroque geniuses, Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Eventually, with an eye for color and an eternal appreciation for 20th century abstract art, Hester found herself attracted to exuberantly hued minerals, valued for their intricate formations. We would be remiss to not highlight this incredible concordance between her collection of 20th century art, with which she parted, and these bright minerals that somehow took their place.

Hester Diamond Leger Tourmaline
Fernand Léger, "The Typographer", 1918-1919, Oil on Canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art. ©2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York /ADAGP Paris; Pink Tourmaline on Smokey Quartz, 12.5 x 9.5 x 10.3cm. Paprok, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan. © Sotheby's

In the images above, we discover Hester Diamond’s "Composition - The Typographer" by Fernand Léger. This abstract modern piece is composed of colored shapes, which tip and tilt and fan out towards the edges of the canvas, much like the adjacent three translucent, deep pink tourmaline crystals delicately positioned by nature against the smokey quartz formation. True to herself, Hester eschewed the notion of acquiring minerals based on scientific notions of geology, instead choosing those which color and aesthetic were most pleasing. She favored rare and striking pieces of significant sizes, like this mineral formation, pictured here, and estimated to be worth $30,000. Indeed, the Sweet Home “Rhodo” plate, hailing from the Sweet Home Mine in Colorado, a silver mine famous for the stunning red crystals it occasionally yielded, is of exceptional quality. We notice Hester Diamond’s astute collector’s eye in how the raspberry-hued angular crystals subtly echo the shapes of her beloved Tord Boontje Witch Chairs (pictured below).


When it came to collecting minerals, Diamond also turned to Asia, and her collection now serves as a retrospective for many contemporary discoveries in the region. Here below, we discover Diamond's pyrite on calcite from Xianghualing. This mineral formation is composed of numerous interpenetrating soft and translucent grey calcite elements, which along with select striations, create a delicate glittering appearance in proper lighting. The overlapping planes and facets in near-monochromatic browns, grays, or blacks are reminiscent of another one of Hester’s modern pieces, which she parted with in 1988: Picasso's cubist painting “Woman with a Mandolin”. It would seem that Hester’s attraction to modern art found new breath in the shapes of this superb collection of quartz formations, one passion leading into the next, like spirits from her visionary past.

Hester Diamond Picasso
Picasso "Femme à la Mandoline, 1910, Oil on Canvas. © All Rights Reserved. Pyrite on Calcite Xianghualing Ore Field, Linwu County, Chenzhou Prefecture, Hunan Province, China. 30 x 24 x 10.5 cm. © Sotheby's.

UNIONS IMPREVUES: LA COLLECTION DIAMOND


Loin des stéréotypes des collectionneurs, le maniaque hyperspécialisé ou le Géo Trouvetou, Hester Diamond révèle une collection à la fois vaste et hyperpointue. Quelques chefs d’œuvres de peintures et sculptures Renaissance côtoient beaux livres et mobilier anglais du XVIIIème siècle. Dès les années 1950, le couple Diamond achète également des travaux modernes de jeunes artistes prometteurs. Le point commun de cet ensemble hétérogène ? La couleur, généralement vive et profonde, comme la recherche Hester en contemplant ses tableaux. Baignés au cœur de ces explosions chromatiques, les minéraux trouvent naturellement là le meilleur des écrins. À coups d’expéditions en Europe et en Asie, de visites et de découvertes, des dizaines de cristaux siègent finalement aux côtés de masterpieces remarquables dans une géniale harmonie savamment orchestrée.

Hester Diamond 21st century design. Rhodochrosyte
Witch Chair by Tord Boontje, 2004. © Sotheby's. Rhodochrosite from Sweet Home Mine, 13.5 x 11.5 x 6 cm, Alma Park County, Colorado, US. © Sotheby's

Outre la qualité et la rareté des éléments qui la composent, ce qui rend la collection d’Hester et Harold Diamond si notable, c’est son incroyable processus d’évolution : toujours en mouvement. Un chef d’œuvre vendu permet l’achat d’un autre, céder un Picasso lui permet de s’offrir quatre old masters de la peinture et de la sculpture néerlandaise et italienne qui l’attirent tant à la fin de sa vie. Malgré ces bouleversements, l’équilibre de la collection sera néanmoins toujours maintenu. Des œuvres de Baroccio, Le Bernin, Filippino Lippi, Jörg Lederer et Wtewael trouvent à épouser avec justesse des Picasso, Brancusi et Barry X Ball parmi les calcites, tourmalines bicolores et opales bleutées.

Sans surprise pour la vente des minéraux, ce sont les diverses nuances des tourmalines qui font le plus de promesses. Trois spécimens rose vif sur fond de quartz fumé originaires d’Afghanistan sont estimés jusqu'à 30 000$. Leur géométrie rhomboédrique rappelle le revêtement des deux Witch Chair du designer Tord Boontje, des chaises entièrement recouvertes d'écailles carrées de cuir rouge. La paire de Witch Chair ayant appartenu à Hester Diamond fait bien sûr également partie de la vente. Dans la même veine, le vert absinthe de la Easy Chair arrondie des designers Scholten & Baijings répond à celui d'une belle polymorphite chinoise. La diversité des formes minérales, de leurs couleurs et de leur structure évoque donc avec justesse tout ce que la collection Diamond a comporté d'œuvres d'Art Moderne.

Et pour cause : les couleurs vives d'un Miró ou d'un Mondrian resurgissent coincées dans les cristaux d'azurites et de soufre. Que dire enfin, de ces rhodocrosites éclatantes, de cet impressionnant lot de pyrites, cette pierre qui aimante l'oeil, dont les cubes souvent parfaits se superposent avec rigueur ? Elles rappellent à nouveau le reste de la collection moderniste des Diamond. Comme de nouvelles sculptures entre les murs de l'appartement d'Hester à Central Park West, chaque spécimen est assis sur un socle spécialement conçu pour lui. À noter également dans cette vente, une éblouissante amazonite du Colorado et une grande émeraude aux jardins caractéristiques, originaire du gisement historique de Muzo en Colombie, le plus ancien et le plus recherché.



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