Monday, September 17, 2012


White (platinum) peacock ornament, c. 1900
Gustav Manz design book (Mathews family collection). Manz's costbooks include a production sketch of a similar pendant fabricated for New York decorator and jeweler Edith Douglas Deane

During the years preceding World War I, beauty was the thing with feathers—especially in iridescent peacock shades (except in millinery, where ostrich plumes ruled, and fetched nearly as much as diamonds by weight until the global trade crashed in 1914). In 1904 Charles Freer had purchased the Peacock Dining Room his friend James McNeill Whistler had designed for a client, then had the chamber and its appointments dismantled and shipped home to Detroit to house his art pottery collection. And in 1911 D.H. Lawrence borrowed the title for his debut novel, The White Peacock, from the rare pale variety of Indian Blue

Manz's production sketch for a carved platinum peacock pendant with 45 stones made at his West 28th Street studio; sold to Tiffany & Co. 1916 
(Winterthur Museum Library)

In the jewelry trade, Gustav Manz was sculpting peacock feathers in gold, platinum, and silver, embellishing the vanes with diamonds or colored stones or both. He carved peacocks into pendants and rings for Tiffany & Company as well as for private customers. F. Walter Lawrence's display for a jewelry show at the National Arts Club in 1903 featured a large case of articles mostly executed by Manz including: “... a fine conventionalized peacock for a breast ornament, the eyes in the separate feathers formed of colored jewels...” (De Kay, "An Exhibit of Jewelry," NYT, November 20, 1903; also featured in F. Walter Lawrence, "Symbolism in Jewelry," Town & Country, December 12, 1903). When Lawrence sent three dozen pieces to the St. Louis Expo the following spring, Manz received credit in the official catalog as the goldsmith responsible for the work—a rare acknowledgment of the craftsman on whose skills the firm's reputation depended. 

Peacock ornament, circa 1901, created by Gustav Manz for the firm of F. Walter Lawrence. It strongly resembles drawings in Manz's design archive whose hand is evident in the highly articulated feather barbs 
(images accompanying "A Goldsmith-Sculptor: F. Walter Lawrence" by Irene Sargent in The Keystone, July 1905)

In May 1915, Edith Douglas Deane, an artist and designer ("particularly artistic jewelry"—Who's Who of America, 1914) bought or commissioned a silver peacock pendant from Gustav Manz's workshop at 37 East 28th Street. A rough sketch pasted next to the ledger entry shows overlapping tail feathers with deeply hand-chased barbs encircling a blue-green cabochon Amazonite. 

Peacock fever spreads to readers of Good Housekeeping (February 1902)

A graduate of the New York School of Applied Design for Women founded by Ellen Dunlap Hopkins, the 40-year-old Deane was a daughter of John Hall Deane—a trustee of Vassar (his daughter's alma mater) and major benefactor to Calvary Baptist Church. Deane traded precious and semi-precious stones as well as decorating hints: According to Manz's ledgers she was the source for turquoise scarabs set into a collar created for another Manz client, Elinor Evans Klapp, who designed jewelry as well as interiors. 

By the early 1920s, Deane appears to have moved away from jewelry and was associated with J.C. Demarest & Co., contributing occasional articles to The Modern Priscilla and Today's Housewife and lecturing at women's clubs on topics like "Historic Influences on Modern Furniture in the American House" and "The Use and Abuse of Period Rooms and Furniture" ... presumably wearing that feathery pendant carved by her go-to jewelry craftsman.

Deane served as contributing editor for Today's Housewife (cover illustration signed "R. Eastman" for Ruth Eastman Rodgers); a 1925 advertisement in The New Yorker promoted Deane's lecture series (probably placed by the James B. Pond bureau, which booked her speaking engagements) 


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  1. Dear Laura and Cuyler: I'm probably not posting in the correct area, but I just wanted to congratulate you both on the beautiful article on Gustav in today's NYTimes. The bracelet at Macklowe is breathtaking..probably my new favorite of the many pieces I have been lucky enough by this time to see. The picture of Gustav..well...he just looked so lovely and adorable (aside from his immense talent). Keep up the amazing work (and many kudos to Courtney as well) Best regards from Robin (ASJRA)

  2. Robin: You were the very first reader of this blog, now that I think back. Thank you for your kind words about Gustav... Hope we'll see you at the jewelry conference in a couple weeks. xoxo L

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