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Rooted in the Arts

Rooted in the Arts

Rago’s Miriam Tucker on the “Tree of Modern Art” Brooch

21 October 2016

by Miriam Tucker

In May 1933 Vanity Fair magazine ran a playful, “genealogical” illustration entitled “The Tree of Modern Art—Planted 60 Years Ago.” The artist was Miguel Covarrubias who, in 1923, left Mexico for New York City and almost immediately succeeded as a stage designer, illustrator, lithographer and caricaturist. His illustrations and signature sketches of artists, politicians and other public figures appeared in Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New Yorker and The New York World, among other publications.

Frederick Davis, an American expatriate with a gallery in Mexico City, was Covarrubias' friend and, like Covarrubias, a champion of Mexican art. He was also a noted silversmith. In 1945, to show his admiration for his friend, and to honor five of Covarrubias’ favorite women, Davis created five identical silver brooches inspired by “The Tree of Modern Art”. They were formally presented at a luncheon in Mexico City to Covarrubias’ wife, Rosa, a dancer and artist; actress Mary Anita Loos (niece of Anita Loos, the author of Gentleman Prefer Blondes); Sally Blane Foster, an actress and the sister of Loretta Young; model and muse Maria Asúnsolo; and Carmen Lopez Figueroa, one of Mexico’s beau monde and a renowned hostess.

In their gift boxes, the women found brooches in the shape of a gnarled tree, made of dark silver (a shimmering alloy of silver, nickel and brass), its branches hung with orange-colored Mexican fire opals from Querétaro.
Rago will offer one of these brooches (Lot 209) for sale in Intoxicated by Art: The Adriana Williams Collection auction on November 5. View this, and other works of fine art and design from the collection of Adriana Williams, here.