My friends’ baby, little Amelia May, who you will remember as the World’s Most Beautiful Baby, will never become a semi-literate, junk food eating Reality Show wannabee. We’ve decided the world of options are open to her, but most likely she’ll be the first female head of NASA and a Nobel Prize winner. With her looks, she’ll also serve a brief stint as a Super Model but only to meet the Oxford costs not covered by her Rhodes Scholarship.
Yes, the exposure to culture, literature, art and music has already begun. And she’s only eight weeks old. As Godparents in training, we’re doing our bit. I’ve already ordered Baby’s First Encyclopedia (which I’m anxious to read). I’ve conducted Chinese Language Immersion. Okay, so all I know is Gong hei fat choi* and a few names of items you might find on a dim sum menu, but every bit of exposure counts. And I need to work fast as Andy loves to talk “Piglet Language” to her, which is undermining my efforts. Unless she is going to be a Large Animal Veterinarian.
Today was a milestone and I had to be there: Amelia’s first trip to a museum. The chosen venue was the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the special exhibition was Artistic Luxury: Faberge, Tiffany and Lalique. I wondered if this might be setting expectations a bit too high, too soon, but Susi quickly assured Amelia that, if she wanted a Faberge Egg, “Daddy will get it for you.” This might be a tall order, but Amelia’s father, Rob, is the master of the flea market, pouncing on $3 finds that he later sells on eBay for $150, so who knows? There could be a Faberge egg in some exiled Russian granny’s attic that a clueless great great grandchild takes to the Alameda Flea Market. It could happen.
In any case, Amelia May was appropriately dressed for the event in head-to-toe pink, as her parents have completely lost the “gender-neutral colors” battle to the force that is an English Granny. Amelia would need to have four clothing changes a day to get even a few days wear from the flood of fuzzy, pink and flowered garments that are daily arriving with British postmarks.
The exhibit itself was wonderful. It was filled with things that — were they not encrusted with diamonds, pearls, rubies and emeralds — would really be knick-knacks. Granted, they were the Platonic Ideal of knick-knacks. Think of the most exquisite, tiny cherry blossom or orchid. Now imagine it is made of Mother-of-Pearl, costly gems and exotic woods. Now imagine room after room filled with them. That’s the exhibition in a nutshell (perhaps a carved Ebony, gold-veined, pearl inlaid nutshell).
It was clear that the market for Faberge’s work was a tiny, tiny subset of the wealthiest 1% of the aristocracy of Europe. I couldn’t help feeling relieved that Tsarina Alexandra of Russia never woke up one day and said, “I’m just so OVER Faberge.” All of Europe would have followed suit and then what would all those thousands of artisans on Faberge’s payroll have done? They would have had to scramble for dollars, Rubles, Marks and Franks from the rising Nouveau Riche. That would have been a different clientele, probably demanding items with some sort of useful purpose. How would Faberge have tackled making, say, a gem-encrusted fondue set?
One interesting note about the show: it’s amazing how many people — when surrounded by items of unimaginable luxury, cost, workmanship and artistic execution — would rather look at the beautiful pink-clad baby in the stroller. However, I’ve been maintaining for eight weeks now that Amelia May is a Work of Art.
That juxtaposition of artwork, the intensely artificial and the irresistable pink-skinned, cooing variety, put me in mind of this quote from Oscar Wilde:
“It is through Art and through Art only that we can realize our perfection…”
I always assume Oscar is right. But what if the inverse was true today?
What if Amelia May, who is already perfection, just added a little more luster to the works of Messieurs Faberge, Tiffany and Lalique? Can we now add “Museum Benefactor” to her growing list of accomplishments?
*Gong hei fat choi loosely translates to “Congratulations and be prosperous”. The traditional Chinese New Year’s greeting.