"To Marcel Knecht from Paul Gillot / New York 1928 / Gillot & Co"
Entered in a competition, Gillot's design for a boucle de ceinture carved in horn caught the eye of Henri Vever, whose firm was at the vanguard of the art nouveau movement
Image Jewelers' Circular, August 3, 1898
portraying Sarah Bernhardt as Melissande in La Princess Lointaine, from an exhibit organized by Musee du Luxembourg in Paris, 2007
Image from archive of Le Figaro
with carved platinum and gold lotus or fleur de lis mounting
Sold to Gillot & Co in November 1916,
shortly after the firm incorporated
Gustav Manz stockbook, Winterthur Museum
Gillot's career at Marcus & Company was interrupted by the German army's invasion of France in August 1914. According to his petition for naturalization, he obtained leave of absence from Marcus "for the purpose of enlisting in the French army, which he did immediately upon his arrival in France" (as did brother Adrien). He served in the trenches until battle wounds and illness took him out of combat. Mathilde had followed her husband to France in November 1915, and was living with her widowed mother-in-law in Paris when Gillot was discharged on May 22, 1915. The couple's address before sailing to New York in June 1915 was Le Grand Hotel, 12 boulevard des Capucines (where two years later another Dutch emigre, the dancer and alleged spy Mata Hari, entertained her lovers).
New York Herald, June 24, 1915
Image of the wreath, below, from Judith Price's
Masterpieces of American Jewelry (2004)
In the 1920s, Gillot commissioned Manz to create a seal fob as a token d'estime for French Embassy attache Marcel Knecht. The carnelian base was topped by a miniature American bison carved in 18K gold by Gustav Manz (an identical fob remains in the collection of Manz's family). As a young man, Knecht served as commissioner for l'Exposition de Nancy (1909). Its sponsors hoped to broadcast the great strides in Science, Art, and Industry in the decades since France's painful defeat in the war of 1870. A war veteran and journalist for Le Matin, Knecht was appointed head of the French Information Bureau. A popular dinner speaker, he traveled across the United States on behalf of the French Government between the two world wars, bestowing crosses of the Legion of Honor on Americans who'd fought or performed some other service for France.
Between the wars, Gillot & Co decamped often—from 546 to 605 Fifth Avenue (c. 1920), then to 557 Fifth (c. 1922); 609 Fifth at 49th Street, where lingerie and dry-goods merchant James McCutcheon had built a spacious new department store (c. 1925) and, lastly, 610 Fifth, across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral (c. 1937). Conveniently for Gillot, who organized so many events for the French Colony in New York, the building also housed the French Government Tourist Office. For many years he served as Vice President of the Federation of French War Veterans and as Honorary Aide de Camp for the New York State Veterans of Foreign Wars.
with granulation and wirework
Retailed by Gillot & Co, circa 1920s
In February 1942, a Gillot & Co associate brought his 3-year-old grandson to visit the firm's offices at Rockefeller Center, which had a view of the Hudson River, where the SS Normandie had caught fire earlier that week. The jewel of French ocean liners had been seized after France surrendered to Germany and was being converted to a troopship when a spark from a blowtorch started the inferno. Though not a tall man (5'6"), Gillot had an imposing presence and his expression that day, as the ship smoldered on its side a few blocks away, thoroughly terrified his young visitor. In the waiting room of the French Line was the decorative plaque Gillot had designed commemorating the many Americans who'd fought for France.
Best in Bow: Edwardian brooch signed Gillot & Co, featured in Elizabeth Taylor's book, My Love Affair with Jewelry (2002) co-authored with Ruth Peltason
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