Wednesday, January 18, 2012



On April 7, 2011, The American Society of Jewelry Historians invited Courtney Bowers-Marhev to speak to members about the jewelry of Gustav Manz, whose work she first encountered as a graduate student in Parsons-Cooper Hewitt's Masters Program in the History of Decorative Arts. Estate jewelry expert Diana Singer subsequently provided highlights from Bowers-Marhev's slideshow in the ASJH summer newsletter, along with some tips for Manz spotting:

....It is important to note that, in those days—unlike today, where the designer/manufacturer often aggressively courts and markets directly to the consumer—it was unthinkable for the skilled wholesaler to directly approach the retail client unless specifically invited to do so. Prominent retail stores such as those previously named often sold pieces made by Gustav Manz, and marked them as their own works. Only someone familiar with his inimitable style would have any idea he was the genius responsible for the jewel, and not the retail establishment. What, then, are the characteristics of Gustav Manz's style, and how does the trained eye recognize it? The roots of Manz's style lay firmly in the Art Nouveau movement, replete with animal motifs, valutes, foliate motifs, and often Gothic or eastern motifs. All were highly detailed and sculptured, often steeped in the sensualism reminiscent of Auguste Rodin's sculptures. Animals and the figures pulse with volume and life, as if springing out from the jewel. A favorite subject used in many instances was that of the panther, a motif that became well-known in the hands of Cartier's Jeanne Toussaint. Animal pins were a major part of his design sensibility; the claws found on the dragons, panthers, and lions are highly articulated and full of strength. Spectacularly ornate and rendered wings adorn the birds of prey, dragons, and peacocks. Plant life, including leaves, branches, lily pads, and lotuses all have deeply modeled and etched surfaces. Charming dog pins and stickpins were a part of the entourage as well, with the finely chased surfaces often set with tiny diamonds. In addition, Egyptian motifs figured prominently in his designs, many of which were retailed by Tiffany & Co. in the 1920s. Eastern motifs were explored in the 1920s as well, some of which included dragons, pagodas, and serene Buddhas... 

Images from Bowers-Marhev's slideshow and private collections:

Manz stockbook entry for a panther and snake ring with a star sapphire, sold to Moore & Mason in May, 1925 (Winterthur); Manz's panther and snake designs were exhibited at the St. Louis World's Fair and the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Eighth Annual Industrial Art show 
Photo (c) Gustav Manz LLC

A panther and snake ring, circa 1910. Unsigned, attributed to Gustav Manz; Manz's design book also features tigers and lions in crouching poses or emerging from fronds of savannah grass
Image courtesy Skinner Inc. 

Gustav Manz costbook sketch for a "Gold Star Sapphire Sphinx Ring" 
sold to Marcus & Company, in June 1916. A variation on the Egyptian-inspired jewelry Manz created for the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 (below), his sphinx and pyramid mounting attracted orders from T. Kirkpatrick, Brand Chatillon, Bailey Banks & Biddle and others
Winterthur Library

Manz stockbook record for "fancy sapps + gold grape broche" sold to Tiffany & Company, November 1922 
Manz stockbook, Winterthur Library

Gold grapevine cuff set with colored stones by Gustav Manz
 for Tiffany & Company
 Private collection

Buddha ring settings by Gustav Manz, c 1923 
Sold to Tiffany & Co. and Shreve, 
Crump & Low
Manz stockbook, Winterthur Library

Jade, enamel, and ruby Buddha earring, ca 1920s
Designed and manufactured by Gustav Manz 
Private collection 
Photo (c) Gustav Manz LLC


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