Tuesday, December 20, 2011
TEDDY BEARS FOR GROWNUPS
Figural Bear Ring, 18K
Attributed to Gustav Manz, circa 1910
Photo courtesy Macklowe Gallery
Bear motif from undated Gustav Manz trade card
Private collection (image Gustav Manz LLC)
Not long ago, we dropped by Macklowe Gallery to try on a pair of grizzly bears loping in tandem around an 18K ring shank. Attributed to Gustav Manz, the carved figures step lightly over fallen branches with heads up as if in anticipation of some tasty treat around the bend. In winter of 1912, Manz registered copyright on a few of the bronze objets he would take to The National Arts Club sculpture exhibition that spring. They included a Barye-esque vignette of a bear grappling with a buffalo; a pair of fighting panthers (later Manz's daughter would donate these to the Cleveland Museum of Natural History), and polar bears adrift on an iceberg—no doubt in homage to Peary's arctic expedition.
Knock on wood. Circa 1920s bronze door ornament probably carved by Gustav Manz. From the catalogue Unusual Jewelry Silverware and Bronzes, F. Walter Lawrence Inc. (collection of Janet Zapata)
In contrast to the sculpture Manz's motifs for jewelry weren't all nature tooth and claw (unless paired with a natural predator—as in his popular panther and snake ring design). The bruins in many of his renderings appear perfectly congenial, their facial expressions almost trancelike, as if lured by strains of the Hesitation Waltz emanating from the Prince George ballroom on East 28th Street, just up the street from Manz's work studio. Built in 1904, the hotel's lounge was popular with notables like Diamond Jim Brady and Lillian Russell, Stanford White's mistress Evelyn Nesbit, and Eugene O'Neill.
Rudolf Eickemeyer studio photo of Gilded New York "It Girl" Evelyn Nesbit (Christie's). Below the black and white original, the colorized version for a 1902 postcard issued by the Alf Campbell Art Company captioned "Little Butterfly | Posed by Evelyn Nesbit
Manz's Easy to imagine Manz's bear rings and scarf-pins (retailed at stores like Tiffany & Co, Marcus, T. Kirkpatrick & Co, and Black Starr & Gorham) catching the eye of un-hesitating gents on their way to do the Castle Walk and Grizzly Bear Rag* with their favorite Gibson Girl: "If they do that dance in heaven, shoot me, hon', tonight at seven."
Updated December 2016