Friday, May 1, 2015


Mermaid Ring by Gustav Manz for F. Walter Lawrence, circa 1900. 
Lawrence and Manz exhibited a Mermaid scarf pin with a baroque pearl at the Providence Art Club Arts & Crafts Exhibition in March-April 1901
Mark: 'F. LAWR.' Private Collection 

Early in 1901, the Providence Art Club issued a circular soliciting entries for an exhibition of arts and crafts. We recently unearthed a copy of the original catalog at the NYPL and rifled through in search of the usual suspects. 

And there it was: the earliest reference we've found of Gustav Manz's output as an artist and jeweler's jeweler. The typesetter's misspelling of the craftsman's first and last name are unfortunate, but close enough: shown here with a detail from a Manz drawing in a private collection and the brass doorknocker on the club's entrance on Thomas Street, at the base of college hill....


Left clockwise: cover from Arts & Crafts exhibition catalog; door of the Providence Art Club; Manz's gouache design of a dryad holding grape cluster; list of pieces in F. Walter Lawrence's display—all made by Manz

The show's run was only 3 weeks — from March 19 - April 9 — but it featured over 600 objects: an impressive array not only of jewelry but art works in wood, glass, pottery by noted ceramicists such as William Grueby, textiles and furniture, leatherwork, bookbinding. At the center of the hall's upper tier was a display of favrile glass lent by Tiffany Studios. 

Tiffany glass at the 1901 Providence Art Club Exhibition
Courtesy of Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Museum Archives

According to a circa 1901 review in THE ARTIST magazine, the organizers' main objectives were to give individual craftsmen credit for their work, and "the excluding of works which could not, strictly speaking come under the head of art..." More impressive still, the club "even succeeded in enforcing the mention of the designer's and artisan's names in the case of objects exhibited by commercial firms." In 2001, the Providence Art Club celebrated the centennial of that influential exhibit with a show celebrating work of contemporary artisans.

Despite campaigning by arts associations, crediting individual makers for "added value" was a short-lived experiment. Branding with small plaques, stamps, or boxes bearing the retailer's name remained the norm, and still does. 

Even so, we're keeping an eye out for a grasshopper with baroque pearl and heart-shaped peridot brooch...

Front view of the Manz mermaid ring 
Image Tadema Gallery, London

Special thanks to the Librarians of Room 300 at the Main Branch of New York Public Library 
for assistance in accessing the Providence Art Club exhibition catalog 


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1 comment:

  1. How exciting to unearth this information! I, too, love the NYPL for my research. Regards, Barbara Schwartz, Proprietor, TruFaux Jewels