Born of the one light/Eden saw play

Musings on Teh Inauguration coming soon, I promise.

But I just remembered, I did do something mildly interesting this past weekend: went to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) for the first time post-reno. A jewelry-designer friend wanted to see the diamond exhibit, and her membership includes a guest, and I am just generally very good at being the type of person benevolent friends take to the museum.

So…the reno. To be specific, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal; or to be even morespecific, ‘that huge ugly blister that’s now stuck to that gorgeous old building’, as friend’s husband put it. Can’t really disagree. While the concept is clearly supposed to be ‘organic growth fused to city setting’, the net result is more like ‘explosion at the storm window factory somebody tried to contain with random weatherstripping’.

Inside the crystal sections, the tone-deafness continues. Where you would expect sharpness and light, an enhancement of the museum’s intellectual power, there is instead flat white…drywall? As in, they were so anxious to start making money off this thing they decided against finishing off the walls? Sure looks like it, is all I am saying. Occasionally, you can glance through a haphazard shred of storm window down onto: yet another condo build. This does not discourage mental snarks about pretentious Torontonians.

(Weirdly enough, the only place the new interior works is the renovated Hall of Dinosaurs, clearly where all the planning budget went. The ancient skeletons really pop against the white and light).

The diamond exhibit was fairly cool. Albeit I had been expecting more romantic history surrounding famously sordid gems and fewer…er…carbon filaments. A similar exhibit on pearls I’d seen some years ago managed to tie their formation, the rarity of their perfection, into a marvellous tour of power and prestige down through the centuries.

With the diamonds – thank you De Beers, I suppose – they jump straight from ‘yup, really hard and clear’ to Cartier and Harry Winston and carat-encrusted leopards with emerald eyes, all that sort of thing. The diamond as symbol of conspicuous consumption is a powerful story; but it’s also, eventually, something of an imaginative dead end. All told I have added three valuable bits to my store of Life Experiences:

1.) Large, flawless pink diamonds do indeed look like ‘a deuced drop of pink bubbly’. I read that phrase in a mystery once and have always been charmed by it. Good to have confirmation.

2.) It is possible to get some truly lovely effects with diamonds – picking out a snakeskin pattern, for example, or enhancing the delicate grace of a swirl or ribbon form. Lush forms are not served quite as well, or rather are served too well. And a life-size diamond-encrusted rose is over-the-top to the point of inducing mild nausea.

3.) In medieval portraits, diamonds  – and gosh weren’t there a lot! – were invariably painted black, ‘with a flash of white along the edge’. I will now not embarrass myself, should I ever run into an art historian. Here I’d been wondering all this time at the medieval nobility’s dedication to onyx when there were all those diamonds available.


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