Direct from a Cartier exhibition in Paris at the Grand Palais on Champs Elysees, the Hillwood show is fitted in a small gallery with rings, necklaces, earrings, evening gowns, purses, and a dressing set, among other items, at the estate's Adirondack Building.
Also on display are jeweled boxes and elaborate enameled, painted picture frames, including a set of Russian Tsar Nicolas II's daughters, Grand Duchess Tatiana and Grand Duchess Olga, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1918.
One of Post's four marriages was to Joseph E. Davies, appointed U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1936. While living in Russia in 1937 and 1938, Post and her husband bought many art works from the Stalinist government which needed money to build the regime. Post developed an affinity for Russian decorative arts and her collection evolved into the world's greatest collection of Russian imperial arts, outside the homeland.
She was also an admirer of French art, bequeathing many pieces of her jewelry to the Smithsonian, including a diamond tiara Napoleon I gave to Empress Marie-Louise, on view at the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History in the Hall of Gems. The Smithsonian loaned several gems to Hillwood for Cartier.
Other items in the Cartier presentation include a cigarette box of gold, silver, enamel, agate, and diamonds with ashtrays of gold, rubies, jade and sapphires, made in "the heyday of cigarette smoking," de rigueur elements to accommodate smokers found in elegant homes of the 1920s and 1930s.
Post began her Cartier collection in the 1920s and added to it throughout most of her life.
The Cartier firm opened its doors in Paris in 1899, and its New York shop in 1909 where Post became Cartier's best client, Hillwood says.
For presentation in 1929 at the Court of St. James, Post wore a 21-carat Columbian emerald reportedly offered to her by Cartier and formerly worn by Austrian Archduke Maximilian (1832-1867) who crowned himself emperor of Mexico where he was executed.
Many rooms at the Hillwood mansion are open to the public, including the upstairs with bedrooms and dressing rooms (no sitting, please). While on the grounds, enjoy the peace of its 25 acres, nicely designed with tranquil gardens where visitors may sit on benches and dream.
What: Cartier: Marjorie Merriweather Post's Dazzling Gems
When: Now through January 11, 2015, including New Year's Day, Tuesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Sundays, 1 - 5 p.m. Closed on Mondays. Beginning January 12, Hillwood will closed for the month.
Where: Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens "Where Fabulous Lives," 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008
Suggested donation: $15 (adults), $12 (seniors), $10 (students), $5 (child, ages 6 -18) and free for those under age 6.
Parking: Free, on-site
Biking and walking: Encouraged; bike racks available.
For more information: 202-686-5807
Metro station: Van Ness/UDC station on the Red Line, then walk a (mostly uphill) mile and burn off Christmas calories. (Taxis, available.)
Metro bus stop: The L1 or L2 bus stops at the corner of Connecticut and Tilden streets, NW, about a half mile's (mostly uphill) walk from Hillwood.