In honor of the London games and the exuberance of this year's athletes, we've pulled up a few of the heroes from Gustav Manz's portolio. Manz's training as a draughtsman and jeweler coincided with the archaeological digs of the late 19th century which revived classical motifs and styles. The detailing on a gold signet ring shows off not only a master goldsmith's fondness for high-relief carving but his wit and skill in compressing the famous myth of the Dioscuri, Zeus's twin sons by Leda, onto the narrow band of the ring. He even fit in a "boxing ring" (overlapping straps) beneath the feet of Pollux, who was famous for his fisticuffs though he was ultimately outmatched by a brass-headed giant named Amycus. When his twin Castor died in a fight their father arranged for the brothers to maintain their closeness by placing them among the stars as the Gemini. So perhaps the ring was commissioned for a pugilist born between May 21 and June 21.
THE HEAVY LIFTERS
brooches at upper left and upper right,
and pendant at bottom—may have been sent
to St. Louis. Photographed at Manz's studio
at 41-43 Maiden Lane, circa 1903
The third modern Olympiad took place in St. Louis in 1904, and was more or less folded into the Expo, creating the perfect backdrop for Manz's miniature evocations of classical gods and goddesses. A photograph of unfinished jewelry found in Manz's archive at Winterthur offers further clues to what his work for Lawrence's exhibit looked like. Several of the items incorporate what appear to be iridescent shards of ancient glass. Placed atop a sheet of Manz & Co business stationery are a lotus buckle or dress clip; two scenic brooches evoking Nile Valley flora and fauna—lion and snake (upper left), Sphinx and pyramids (upper right);and a fancy pendant depicting a semi-nude female dancing above diamond-set lotus blossoms (possibly Psyche). And at center, an intricately carved purse frame depicts mermaids rising from a lotus pond (the finished piece, marked for F. Walter Lawrence, was set with a cabochon chrysoprase and is now in a private collection). A collection that looked backward, to be sure, in total harmony with prosperous Americans' infatuation with Grand Tours and European high culture.
3. Atlas and Diana ring design drawings by Gustav Manz (c) Gustav Manz LLC
4. Poster courtesy of Smithsonian Image Collection
5. Special thanks to several descendants of George Bell for sharing biographical details
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