Sunday, November 18, 2018

KING OF DIAMONDS: PAUL GILLOT



CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: Paul Gillot, jeweler, possibly aboard the S.S. Normandie (undated photo from the Bain picture agency, Library of Congress); Lot 59: Gillot & Company fancy yellow diamond ring consigned for auction at Christie's New York; production notes on a platinum and gold ring mounting sold to Paul Gillot in 1920, from Gustav Manz's costbook archived at Winterthur Museum

Paul Gillot began his career as a draughtsman in Paris (recognized by Henri Vever, no less) before he was hired to design jewelry for Marcus & Co in NYC in 1902. Gustav Manz—an independent maker who produced special orders for Marcus, F. Walter Lawrence, Tiffany & Co. and other firms—was likely one of his first calls.

After joining his brother Adrien (a commercial artist) to fight for France in 1915, Gillot returned to NYC where he found partners and financing to go out on his own as a merchant of fancy goods with a storefront on Union Square. He resumed his association with Manz, with whom he shared a connection to Sarah Bernhardt. Manz had also worked in Paris and made a bracelet for the actress. 


A golden oak branch presented to Marshal Joffre by a delegation of American Citizens organized by jeweler Paul Gillot in 1917. Gillot designed the tribute and dedication "Au Heros de la Marne" but likely delegated the execution to a master carver such as Gustav Manz. 
IMAGE FROM ART WORLD, OCTOBER 1917

Among the commissions Manz executed for Gillot was a gold bison fob presented to journalist and French diplomat Marcel Knecht. Gillot himself served as unofficial ambassador for the French expat community in America, organizing laurels for dignitaries while selling jewelry from his boutique near La Maison Francaise at Rockefeller Center and perhaps arranging fresh mountings for stones spirited out of Europe between the wars. Gillot built a collection of colored diamonds in100-plus different shades. He died in 1949, at age 78, after falling down the stairs of his home in Hastings, leaving his Dutch-born wife and a niece in France.

A fancy yellow diamond ring, circa 1925, marked Gillot & Co will be sold at Christie's New York sale, on December 5, 2018. The reserve is 900,000 - 1,200,000. We'll definitely try to see the fancy oval-cut yellow before the auction. And toast M. Gillot with a glass of pastis after... 

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Monday, November 20, 2017

NO TROPHY NEEDED




We don't know precisely when Gustav Manz made his first ring depicting a young elephant emerging from tall grass, but the year he spent working in South Africa's diamond fields as a young man in the late 1880s clearly was formative. A version of this ring appears in an early photograph of his own jewelry designs for customers such as Tiffany & Co, Cartier, and Black, Starr & Frost, many incorporating lions, tigers, bears and other wildlife.  

After moving to New York in the early 1890s, Manz used his leisure time to sketch animals at the city's park zoos (where over time he earned enough trust from the keepers that he was permitted to borrow a mountain lion cub to study and sketch at his leisure). His miniature, highly realistic, representations of iconic species in precious metal became a hallmark and are highly coveted by collectors today. 


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GUSTAV MANZ LLC

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

AMERICAN BUFFALO



Lid ornament for a hand-made copper humidor
Gustav Manz, circa 1910
Private collection

In July 2016, President Barack Obama signed a bipartisan law naming the American Bison the official National Mammal, giving our National Bird some company. Today a couple thousand bison run wild in Yellowstone National Park thanks to conservationist (and big-game hunter) Theodore Roosevelt's organized effort to stave off extinction. Sacred to the Plains tribes, buffaloes were appropriated by Gilded Age animalier sculptors including James Earle Fraser, creator of the 1913 Buffalo Nickel shown below. 


Obverse and reverse of James Earle Fraser's 1913 nickel design. Image: CoinHelp

Fraser, who taught sculpture at The Art Students League, found his model bison at the Central Park Zoo. Another artist inspired by iconic inhabitants of the American frontier was Canadian-born sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor, whose stone heads and friezes adorn entrances at the Bronx Zoo. Shaggy bovines and other large mammals also featured in the gentlemen's jewelry and metalwork created by Gustav Manz, who rented studio space at 13 E 30th, in the same Manhattan building as A. Proctor's atelier. 





Sterling and gilt plaque of a Native American chief
Gustav Manz, circa 1910-15
Private collection


As a member and occasional exhibitor at the National Arts Club, Gustav Manz was surely in the loop when the U.S. Treasury announced a competition to replace the liberty Head nickel. But Fraser, a former assistant to Augustus St. Gaudens, effectively beat all potential rivals to the punch by quickly submitting a preliminary concept and model coin that wowed officials. Fraser had early exposure to the American frontier—his father was a trainman sent to Little Big Horn to help retrieve remains of Custer's slain calvary—and had worked on a ranch in South Dakota before heading east. The Indian face on his 1913 coin was actually a composite of three chiefs, at least one of whom had met and parlayed with Theodore Roosevelt.



To announce the opening of his studio on East 28th Street, Manz produced a trade brochure advertising his product lines. Each spoke to wealthy Americans' taste for exoticism and icons of the past. A 4-color illustration plate showing designs for "The Animal" line is attached inside the folded stock 
Private collection


While there is no evidence Manz competed for the nickel, a silver Indian head he sculpted and later gave to his daughter clearly evokes the face on Fraser's coin. Like other industrial artists of his era, Manz was well compensated by Tiffany and other firms for his skills as a copycat of artifacts and emblems redolent of ancient and exotic cultures. His noble brave was likely part of his "Indian + Aztec" product line, one of a dozen he advertised in a circa 1912 brochure produced for the trade. Coincidentally in July 1912, a month after TR launched his Bull Moose party (ultimately losing a four-way race for the presidency to Woodrow Wilson), Manz registered copyright on a "sculptured group of buffaloes trying to gore a bear." And we think modern politics is a rough and tumble affair! 


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GUSTAV MANZ LLC

Saturday, October 14, 2017

PORTRAIT ENCHASED IN GOLD


Chrysanthemum frame for an intaglio portrait by Gustav Manz, circa 1910 

Warm days and cool nights bring out the mums—a motif, inspired by Japanese art, favored by Tiffany and Gorham silversmiths in the 19th century. Gustav Manz's circa 1910 pendant adapts the flower to frame the profile of a chignon-coiffed young woman incised in a deep yellow tablet-cut stone. Gypsy-set olivines and a reddish-purple garnet add sparkle to the chrysanthemum leaves and surmounting blossom surrounding her face—all carved by hand. The gold-work is undoubtedly Manz's, but the portrait may have been executed by Ottavio Negri, an intaglio artist renowned for his reproductions of ancient Roman and Greek carvings. 

The Roman-born Negri studied with Augustus St. Gaudens, and counted gem collector J.P. Morgan among his acquaintances (both were members of the New York Mineralogical Club). Negri supplied carved gems to other jewelry designers who like Manz favored classical and historical forms: such as Elinor Evans Klapp (another Manz client); he was also mentor to mid-century gem engraver Beth Benton Sutherland, whose subjects included the children of modern industrialists. Sutherland, who in turn became a champion of the ancient art, used moonstone to set her contemporary work apart from the sardonyx and carnelian engravings favored by the ancients. 


The model or inspiration for the young woman in the stone portrait in Manz's piece has not been identified, but the pendant passed to his eldest daughter, whose birth flower was a chrysanthemum. It and two other jewels by Manz were featured in the 2012 exhibit "Finer Things" at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, which highlighted the fashions and pastimes of an era that looked back one last time before plunging headlong into the modern age.  


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