Designing from the Collection: translating Barnes collection items with jewelry designer Cynthia Gale

Designing from the Collection: translating Barnes collection items with jewelry designer Cynthia Gale

Cynthia Gale jewelry

metalwork from the barnes

Many people who visit the Barnes remark on the keys, hinges, latches, locks, and other hardware that hangs among the paintings. Dr. Barnes said that by including metalwork alongside the paintings, he could “show how the objects of each pattern are direct descendants of what has gone before, but modified by new environment” (letter to Stuart Davis, April 1, 1942).

View of gallery ensemble

Pieces like keys are a compelling entry point into Dr. Barnes’s teachings on light, line, color and space—after all, not many of us are fortunate enough to live among original oil paintings, but we can all see and appreciate the beauty in our own household items, and discovering such familiar things in a fine art collection is intriguing. So when sourcing products for the store, a main priority for me was finding ways for visitors to take this metalwork component of the collection home with them.

Keys by Cynthia GaleIt was my pleasure to work with Cynthia Gale for this project. Selected as a Designer of Distinction by the Silver Institute, Gale has collaborated with many museums on reproducing collection elements as high-quality, affordable jewelry pieces. Cynthia has a keen eye not only for line and form, but also for which shapes translate well to a modern wardrobe.

Some of the items made a literal translation from the gallery wall into jewelry form—particularly, an assortment of charms which can be “curated” into a custom collection for the wearer’s wrist or neck.

For other pieces, Cynthia creatively adapted the shape to meet the practical requirements of jewelry, as with the metal door knocker plate from Room 1. She inverted the form and added filigree and semi-precious stones. In this way, Gale continues the Barnes tradition of looking at an object or element “modified by new environment.”


We’re thrilled to work with artists like Gale to continue this educational tradition of looking closely and making connections across media, genres, and eras.

If you’re in the Philadelphia area, join us on November 22 from 3–8 pm for a Designer Trunk Show. Meet Cynthia Gale in person and see jewelry collections from her travels and her work with other institutions, including Judaica, birthstone jewelry, and cufflinks for men. Hear Gale’s perspective on the art behind the jewelry designs and her creative thinking process to bridge the gap between the walls of a gallery and wearable jewelry.

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