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Decorative Arts

Born Joseph Ruiz, in Louisiana, José de Rivera was an important abstract sculptor of the mid-twentieth century. His career culminated with the commission for a large-scale outdoor sculpture for the Mall in Washington, D.C. As with Alexander Calder, the most famous Aamerican abstract sculptor of the last century, de Rivera seems to have made jewelry for most of career but never actively retailed it. This abstract, biomorphic brooch is made of stainless steel, his preferred material for his sculpture but a relatively unusual choice for American jewelry in the mid-twentieth century. The historical importance of the brooch is heightened by rare documentation. In 1947, de Rivera made two brooches for his sister-in-law Elva Ruiz, who was married to his half brother Gordon, and his niece Muriel. Iin a letter to Elva, de Rivera terms the pieces “sculpture brooches” and adds that “I hope that you will like the shapes and wear them—also that they will give you some pleasure.”
MEDIUM Stainless steel, other metal, suede
DATES 1947
DIMENSIONS Brooch: 3 13/16 x 4 3/8 x 3/8 in. (9.7 x 11.1 x 1 cm) Pouch: 1/16 x 3 x 4 15/16 in. (0.2 x 7.6 x 12.5 cm)  (show scale)
MARKINGS impressed on middle of back: "DE RIVERA" pouch impressed on center of flap: "DE RIVERA"
COLLECTIONS Decorative Arts
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Gift of Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, by exchange
RIGHTS STATEMENT © Estate of Jose de Rivera
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CAPTION Jose de Rivera (American, 1904-1985). Brooch, 1947. Stainless steel, other metal, suede, Brooch: 3 13/16 x 4 3/8 x 3/8 in. (9.7 x 11.1 x 1 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, by exchange, 2008.73a-b. © Estate of Jose de Rivera
IMAGE overall, 2008.73a-b_PS9.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION An abstract biomorphic design comprised of opposing wishbone-shaped curves with rounded edges and curved downward away from the center of the brooch; the upper surface is highly polished, the reverse has a hammered finish and a long, standard hinged pin with a C-clasp. The envelop pouch is formed from a single piece of suede with seamed sides and an open flap.
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