JEWELLERY CONFIDENTIAL

Precious. Audacious. Scandalous. The Paris Museum of Modern Art‘s summer show covers the waterfront.

Officially, Medusa focuses on jewellery – everything from tiaras to dog-tags, tribal tattooing to punk detritus. Because it’s an enormous show, too, there are scores of celebrity pieces.

These come from famous jewellers, famous jewellery houses and famous artists. (There are pieces by Picasso, Dali, Giacometti, Man Ray, Louise Bourgeois, Anni Albers, Meret Oppenheim, Alexander Calder and many others).

Because it’s presented according to theme, works from very different times and places sit side-by-side. Chinese antiquities cozy up to Victoriana and Liberace’s baubles nestle by the ring of a 13th century Pope.

You can compare Napoleon’s design for the Legion d’Honneur with Michael Jackson’s crystal glove. But you can also inspect peerless craftsmanship.

On display are crowns, medals, trophies, chokers, charms, collars and rosaries. The lockets, pins, crosses and pendants traverse every era and even the buttons here have a story to tell.

There’s bling from maharajahs and rappers and rings that poisoned people.

There’s also jewellery made as sculpture and jewellery made as Surrealist art. There’s jewellery that instilled fear and jewellery to ensnare the heart. Some adornments represent the height of their métier; others are simply confected out of paper and paste.

It’s an unexpectedly stunning and informative show. Plus it’s simply…great entertainment.

• Medusa Jewellery and Taboos is at the Museum of Modern Art until 5 November

DIORAMA!

For all its complex technology, is our era one of wonder? Not if you look back to what people once accomplished with paint, lights and a clever perspective. That’s the message of Dioramas, which traces one of the first “interdisciplinary” arts.

Dioramas evolved from magic lantern shows. Their pioneers included talented scenery painters (Pierre Prévost, Charles Bouton), and names that are still famous. Steamboat inventor Robert Fulton ran one of the first such presentations in Paris.

Before he made photo history, Louis Daguerre made his fortune staging dioramas . Balzac called Daguerre’s show, which made the inventor famous as an artist of trompe l’oeil, “the marvel of our age”.

Dioramas is a sprawling, epic show. It traces the form from 1715 right up to its use by naturalists, ethnographers and modern artists – Joseph Cornell to Anselm Kiefer. For room after room, it’s filled with fascinating, odd and theatrical tableaux.

Whether it’s a religious scene or some stuffed animals, a good diorama retains a life of its own. But what really impresses is just how much magic remains in the most primitive exhibits. The best stuff in the show was made in the 18th century.

Its scenes were created with rudimentary tools – cardboard sheets with holes punched in them lit from behind or painted glass slides projected onto moving sheets. But whether you watch Mount Vesuvius erupt or spy on a fête at Versailles, they’re mesmeric.

All the more because the modern art, with few exceptions, can’t compete. Even when you see right through the funky effects somehow it simply doesn’t subtract the charm.

It’s not just the lure of the long-ago, either. The show boasts wonderful ethnographic gems as well as highly quirky natural history scenes. If either of those is your thing, don’t hesitate.

But be prepared – these were performers who put the “light” in Enlightenment.

Diorama runs through 10 September at the Palais de Tokyo

PETAL POWER

He made flowers into celebrities and he worked for celebrities, too. The one-of-a-kind artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759 – 1840) trained as a botanist and knew great naturalists. Yet it was the poetry of his paintings that made his flowers a legend.

Charmed by the artist’s exquisite watercolours, Marie-Antoinette made herself his Royal sponsor. After he survived the Terror, Empress Josephine did the same.

Born to a family of Belgian decorators, Redouté received no education. Instead, from only 13, he scraped by as a jobbing painter – teaching himself from the work of Dutch and Flemish greats. His break came when he joined a brother in Paris to help paint scenery.

He made a couple of botanist friends and they gave him some introductions. But that was all it took. From the moment Redouté stepped in the studios of the Jardin de Roi (today, the National Museum of Natural History), everyone saw he had uncanny talent.

He became a star whose fame was spread by publications such as his multi-volume works Roses and Lilies. Initiated under Napoléon, both remain best-sellers. Original editions cost close to half a million dollars.

Redouté remains a byword for florals that take your breath away and…they do. Now on show as The Power of Flowers, his rarely-seen works prove quite a revelation. It’s not just their wonderful, lyric grace and delicacy. Redouté also backed some of the bigger paintings with foil, so their ephemeral quality is almost eerie.

The show’s packed every day but it’s just been extended. If you’re in town, it’s really worth the effort. All the more so since, painted on vellum, these frail originals are hardly ever shown.

• Le Pouvoir des Fleurs can be seen at the Musée de la vie romantique until 29 October