Markowitz Named Curator of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts

Yvonne Markowitz, an expert on ancient and modern jewelry, will become the first Rita J. Kaplan and Susan B. Kaplan Curator of Jewelry at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Markowitz has been a research fellow at the MFA and is co-chair of the American Society of Jewelry Historians, New England Chapter. With this new curatorial position in the MFA’s department of Textile and Fashion Arts, the museum plans to raise the profile of its outstanding jewelry collection through exhibitions and special programs, while continuing to expand it through gifts and acquisitions.

Markowitz is a research fellow in the department of Art of the Ancient World at the MFA since 1998. She has been the editor-in-chief of Jewelry: Journal of the American Society of Jewelry Historians since 1995 and contributing editor of Adornment Magazine since 2005. She received her B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Maryland, her M.Ed. in Art Therapy at Boston University, and is a Ph.D. candidate at Brandeis University in Egyptology in the Department of Classical & Oriental Studies. She has been chairperson of the American Society of Jewelry Historians, New England Chapter since 2002, and a frequent lecturer at the Annual Antique and Period Jewelry Conference since 1995.

Susan B. Kaplan, a MFA trustee, endowed the curator position at the museum. The endowment was named in honor of Kaplan’s mother, Rita Kaplan.

Markowitz will oversee the MFA’s collection, which spans 6,000 years of civilization. It includes jewelry and adornments from several continents representing an array of materials, techniques, and functions. Objects range from Neolithic Chinese belt ornaments of jade, to excavated beadwork from Egypt’s Pyramid Age. A recent gift to the museum, the Daphne Farago Collection, comprises 600 pieces of contemporary craft jewelry designed and made by leading American and European artists from about 1940 to the present. With the addition of the Farago Collection, the MFA now holds one of the most comprehensive collection of 20th-century studio jewelry ever assembled. Pieces in the MFA’s overall jewelry collection, which number in the thousands and have been amassed since the Museum opened more than 130 years ago, were acquired through gifts, bequests, excavations, and purchases.In recognition of a gift to the Museum from the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Family Foundation, a jewelry gallery for the display of the collection will be named in their honor.

Among the noteworthy objects, are a pair of bracelets made of gold, emerald, green quartz, and pearl which date to the second half of the first century B.C. and were probably made in Egypt, the source of emerald in the Classical world; A gold and amber jewelry suite in the collection, which was made in Rome, around 1879; and a silver and semi-precious stone necklace by Art Smith (1917-1982). 

Susan Kaplan, vice president of the Rita J. and Stanley H. Kaplan Foundation, first became involved with the MFA through the Museum Council in the early 1980s and was elected to the MFA’s Board of Overseers in 1992. A Trustee since 2000, she serves as chair of the Board of Overseers and Chair of the Visiting Committee for the Roberta Logie Department of Textile and Fashion Arts. She also serves as a governor of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.