Andy Warhol anointed the Bulgari boutique at Via dei Condotti 10, Rome, a “museum.” Elizabeth Taylor could be forgiven for thinking it her own private candy store, where with violet eyes she swooned over the sumptuous emeralds and diamonds her new lover, Richard Burton, bestowed upon her. For over a century, Bulgari has been creating some of the most dynamic jewelry in the world. There’s the signature cabochon cut (a mound of virgin beauty); striking color pairings (think turquoise with emeralds and amethysts); geometric configurations (recalling Rome’s monumental architecture and paving patterns); ancient-coin jewelry (a nod to the city’s founding, in 753 B.C.); and an emphasis on yellow gold, recalling the sunny warmth of a Roman holiday.
The exhibition “Bvlgari: The Story, the Dream”—spread between the Palazzo Venezia and the Castel Sant’Angelo, in easy walking distance of each other—features around 170 dazzling jewels from the company’s Heritage Collection and private lenders, as well as 80 haute couture dresses from the esteemed collection of Cecilia Matteucci Lavarini, with designs by Valentino, Chanel, Versace, Pucci, and Prada. The dialogue between jewel and garment beautifully guides viewers through important epochs of the Bulgari story: the 1920s and resurgent postwar period, the sex-fueled dolce vita years, the fantasia of the 70s (where strong design meets exuberant color), and on to the present day. The result is a grand exhibition that puts the Eternal City on vivid display. Bulgari style is Roman style: rooted in history, yet boldly of the moment. —Ruth Peltason