In modern times, the colour green gives us hope; it is a symbol of sustaining the world for years to come. But what about earlier civilisations? Take a journey through time and space at the Vert Désir exhibition in Namur, Belgium – and observe history through a prism of stones such as emerald, jade, jasper and peridot.
History shows us that the colour green arouses a whole spectrum of human emotions: from calm and serenity, to feelings of fear and disgrace. “You might be surprised to know that the colour can tell us a lot about society and collective identities at any one time,” explains Anna Trobec, curator of the Vert Désir exhibition at the Museum of Ancient Arts in Namur, Belgium. From May till August 2020, the exhibition will dissect the meaning of precious and semi-precious green stones throughout time: including the feminine emerald, serpentine, malachite, peridot and jade.

Each stone challenged the know-how of contemporary craftsmen and jewellers just as much as the next. The exhibition unpicks both the artistic and geological origins of these beautiful green stones: beginning with their extraction methods, all the way through to their spiritual capacity to become closer to the gods, and enhance female beauty.

Vert Desir

Left: Photo: Speltdoorn. Right: Photo: Galerie Meyer

The exhibition walks you through a series of civilisations, and presents the stones within each unique context. Discover the significance of the colour green for the Egyptians, who associated it with notions of fertility, vitality and youth, but also with rebirth and the cosmos. The Romans, on the other hand, loved emerald for its dazzling hue. Archaeological evidence, such as funeral portraits, shows a wide variety of Roman necklaces and ear pendants elevating emeralds to the level of gold and pearls.

Vert Désir

Photo: MRAH, Bruxelles

Visit a series of works from the Middle Ages, where these precious stones were used to craft luxurious objects and symbols of power, such as crowns. Similarly, jade is presented as a valuable treasure in Maori culture. Learn more about how it was first used to make adze blades before they became popular ornaments. The exhibition also seamlessly weaves in the cultural significance of malachite, a green mineral that was often elegantly blended with gilded bronze in large decorative objects.

These precious green stones continue to captivate and allure us to this day, and emerald is one of the most sought-after materials on the jewellery market. Whether you’re an artist, geologist, or a lover of beautiful things, a visit to Namur is certainly worth your while.

Vert Désir will take place from 16 May till 16 August 2020.

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