Treasures for body and mind

08 November, 2011

Miss Bianca and the Babe

I actually squealed when I saw this little mousie for sale on 1stdibs.
Doesn't she look like Miss Bianca, the white mouse who was a member of the Prisoner's Aide Society and the special pet of a diplomat's son?  But it is not her resemblance to the heroic Miss Bianca or her lovely opal face that made me sit up and is Miss Mouse's provenance. 

This beautiful piece was made by Verdura in 1950 and was owned by Ms. Babe Paley, she of whom Truman Capote said, "The only thing wrong with Ms. P is that she's perfect, and other than that, she's perfect."  She worked for and was featured by Vogue and was given the title "World's Best Dressed" 14 times. 
Probably the most famous photo of Babe by Horst in Vogue, March 1948, in which she wore a 21.25 carat Verdura canary diamond ring.  Her bracelets were described as "a scramble of pearls." 
Babe's beauty and style transformed what she wore into personal statements, and she collected Verdura and other fine jewels the way the rest of us collect mismatched socks.  Verdura made many items for her- a pearl and diamond swan wearing bracelets brooch, a diamond kitten playing with a pearl brooch, ear clips, rings, and pearl torsades in contrasting colors as well as others- and called her his muse.  
Bracelet and necklace by Verdura
In fairness, a number of her items were purchased by her husband as trophies to display on Babe.  He was no gem himself, and he had a "thing" about her being perfectly dressed in the richest of taste to underscore his wealth and status.      

Babe and William Paley with the Duchess of Windsor; it took a world class collector to dazzle around the Duchess! 
When Ms. Paley was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1974, she smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, she set her affairs in order.  As part of that, she organized her $5+ million jewelry collection so there would be no question as to who inherited what and wrapped them in colored paper as if they were gifts.  The Verdura mouse was probably one of those.  It is an amazing jewel designed by a one of a kind and owned by a one of a kind.
Babe Paley, 1915-1978, in Vogue, 1946

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