December 4, 2105 -- The Barnes Foundation is bringing a piece of France to the city with their newest exhibition that features what's being described as the world's most important collection of wrought iron.
It's called Strength & Splendor, and it's a showcase of everyday objects that are intricately designed works of art.
The items, ranging from keys and tools to a clothes iron and door knockers, date from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century.
"When you think of your own life and the objects you have in your house, it's interesting to think how they tend today to be quite undecorated," says the Barnes Foundation's Director of Publications, Johanna Halford-Macleod, "I'm sure you have an iron to iron your clothes in your house. But I bet it doesn't have curly cues and animals and things decorating it."
The items are part of a larger collection of 15,000 objects from a museum in Normandy, France. Halford-Macleod says this is the first time the pieces have been shown in the United States, "it's quite wonderful really to bring it to an industrial state like Pennsylvania which has a great heritage in coal and iron."
She says, while some of the artists are known, most are not. "Dr. Barnes was very clear on the fact that these anonymous makers were just as important as artists with famous names."
Halford-Macleod says visitors will see everything from street and shop signs "designed to communicate immediately the purpose of the shop that they hung above" to a fantastically ornate 18th century chest, "It has 18 bolts that lock it, and it has a beautiful ratcheted bracket that controls the height of the chest when you open it."
Halford-Macleod thinks the exhibition will remind people, "How ornamented things can be. We tend to have rather sleek and pared down objects today, but I think people took pleasure in ornamentation."
Strength and Splendor is at the Barnes Foundation through January 4th. For tickets, go to www.TheArtsinPhilly.org.