Saturday, November 22, 2014


Ring design by Gustav Manz shown with Charles Negre's famous image of Henri Le Clecq next to "Le Stryge" at Notre Dame de Paris (Negre photo courtesy NYPL Digital Collection; drawing from Manz family collection)

Quand on sait voir, on retrouve l'esprit d'un si├Ęcle et la physionomie d'un roi jusque dans un marteau de porte. 
—Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris

What a banquet of visual inspiration lay in store for a young jewelry designer and metal sculptor wandering around Paris in the late 1880s as the city prepared to host L'Exposition Universelle. An early Gustav Manz trade brochure, circa 1910, advertises a dozen revivalist motifs—Greek, Heraldic, Empire, and Gothic—absorbed from his journeyman years working there and in other jewelry centers. 

The mounting for this circa 1880s gold, citrine, and ruby ring by an unknown maker mimics the same architectural tracery as Manz's neo-gothic design shown above
 (image Tadema Gallery)

Sketches pasted into business ledgers and a scrapbook of gouache and ink design drawings dating from the late 1900s and early 20th century reveal Manz's expertise in capturing the tracery, gargoyles, and other embellishments borrowed from Medieval and Renaissance architecture on a miniature scale. 

           Hammered sterling salt dishes signed by Manz                                         Mathews family collection

As Manz's career trajectory shifted from Europe to New York, and progressed into the mid-20th century, he carried forward the strong historicism and metallurgic techniques passed down (or imitated) from old-world masters such as Jules Wiese, Louis Aucoc, and the Castellani, who were at the top of their game when he began as an apprentice in Baden in the early 1880s. 

Gold and diamond ring carved in shape of a Wyvern 
Gustav Manz, circa 1895-1920 
Private Collection

[Translation for Hugo citation: "When a man understands the art of seeing, he can trace the spirit of an age and the features of a king even in the knocker on a door."] 

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