From the Collection: GOLD presents a selection of pieces from MAD’s permanent collection that highlight gold as applied across media beyond its traditional use in jewelry. Gold embodies the transformation of the ordinary into the extraordinary. Whether representing immortality, glory, wealth, power, beauty, luck, or love, gold carries an abundance of cultural associations that transcend time and place.
Its distinctive color, a warm and reflective yellow, has an inimitable likeness to the radiant sun, which consequently intertwined the material with the sun’s extensive symbolic significance. In addition, throughout history, kings and queens, as well as religious figures and leaders, have been depicted with gold to support their claims to everlasting power and godliness. For example, the painted saints and religious icons of the Byzantine era were gilded with the lustrous metal to manifest divine light, and the funerary mask of King Tutankhamun was made of gold, which the Egyptians associated with the sun god Ra, to aid him on his journey to the afterlife.
Gold was so desired in the medieval period that those who tried to transform base elements into this noble material—a practice known as alchemy—risked paying for their failure with their lives. In the Renaissance goldsmiths were themselves worshipped, while Victorians glorified the purity of love through gilt jewelry. To this day, golden decorative tokens, from wedding bands to medals and trophies, remain important in the commemoration of special and extraordinary events or feats.