In the history of the art of jewelry-making, you’d be hard pressed to find a more spectacular piece of wearable art than Alexander Calder’s The Jealous Husband. During his lifetime (1898–1976), Calder, an American sculptor, created 1,800 pieces of jewelry, many of them as gifts for friends or relatives; he made his first pieces for his sister’s dolls using copper wire he found in the street. Later, he would attract socialites who wanted to turn heads. “I am the only woman in the world who wears his enormous mobile earrings,” said Peggy Guggenheim in her autobiography.
Like most of his jewelry, The Jealous Husband (1940) was made not of precious materials but of brass, hammered into flat strips and shaped into graceful circles winding into tighter and tighter coils that spring up from the shoulders in spiky, murderous prongs. Suddenly, we understand this piece’s nickname.
The necklace—or should we say breastplate—brings up all kinds of visceral responses, ranging from an appreciation for its dramatic scale to something not unlike horror. We know that in the 1940s, Calder was influenced by African primitive tribal art and jewelry. On the elegant neck of Anjelica Huston in the ’70s, it’s an icon.
(Evelyn Hofer/Getty Images)