Friday, August 14, 2015


Opal and gold brooch, probably made by Gustav Manz for F. Walter Lawrence, circa 1900. Collection of Janet Zapata. Image from "All That Glitters" by Jeannine Falino (Antiques & Fine Art, Autumn 2015)

The halo and fleur-de-lis tipped tresses suggest the Maid of Orleans; the gold-work and other provenance point to Gustav Manz as maker. The opal and gold brooch shown above is currently on view at the Museum of the City of New York, and may in fact be one of the jewels exhibited by F. Walter Lawrence at The Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis, Missouri in 1904. Formerly associated with Jaques & Marcus, Lawrence sold art objects, silver, imported goods, and jewelry from his upstairs salon at the same address on Union Square. According to entry forms submitted by Lawrence (now archived at St. Louis Museum of Art), his display—one of the largest at the fair—included an opal matrix brooch labeled "Jean D'Arc" executed by Manz. Like most items for this and other arts and crafts exhibits, the gold surrounding the gem was entirely hand-wrought. Lawrence took design credit, although Manz's output as a designing jeweler suggests he probably collaborated there as well. 

Born into a devout German-Catholic family (his younger sister became a nun), Manz built his reputation carving naturalistic motifs in fine metal, as well as heroic figures from classical mythology and history; he produced more than a few ecclesiastical commissions during his long career, while fabricating jewelry for Tiffany, Marcus & Co, Dreicer & Co, Theo. B. Starr, Black Starr & Frost, and many other retailers during the Gilded Age. Joan of Arc was hardly a new subject in jewelry or any other art medium. Mark Twain, a huge fan, published a volume of his "personal recollections" of Joan in 1895. In early 1900, French filmmaker Georges Méliès directed a popular silent movie based on the life of the Maid that added fuel to the centuries-long fervor to canonize her (it finally happened in 1920). In short order, Edison Studios got hold of a pirated print and distributed dupes in the States. By the time their "Jean" appeared at the fair, Manz and Lawrence were simply riding the wave.

We don't (yet) know for certain if the gold and opal brooch in the Museum of the City of New York show is the same piece, but we'd love to see it next to this ornamental comb from the permanent collection of The Cleveland Museum of Art. It matches Lawrence's entry form description for a "Cyprian glass fragment and gold Lotus and Dragon-Fly Com" that was also executed by Manz. 

Gold, ancient glass, tortoiseshell lotus and dragon-fly comb. Design F. Walter Lawrence; maker Gustav Manz. Image courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art

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