Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ARCTIC GEMS: GUSTAV MANZ'S POLAR BEAR EXPRESS



Anticipating "The Revenant"—a hundred years before the DiCaprio film—an ornament for a circa 1900s sterling card or accessories tray set with rock crystal. Marked F. Walter Lawrence Inc. 
Image Dale Howell Antiques

On March 6, 1912, a decade after establishing himself as a designing jeweler and fabricator in New York City, Gustav Manz registered copyright for a sculptured group of polar bears on a hill of ice, staking his claim on the motif when icicles were hot thanks to the expeditions of Peary, Shackleton and Cook. The arctic fantasy shown above carries the hallmark of F. Walter Lawrence Inc. and is most likely also the work of Manz, who created other animal-themed accessories and silver novelties for Lawrence and others through the ensuing decades until Manz's retirement in the early 1940s.



Ink and gouache rendering of ring design by Gustav Manz, circa 1910. Mathews family collection

A scrap of inked parchment pasted in Manz's mountings book. Obscured by ancient glue, but unmistakably arctic. We're guessing 1909-11, when sales of polar bear items to Black, Starr & Frost, Tiffany & Co, Cartier and others are recorded in Manz's costbooks. A popular postcard issued by the New York Zoological Park from the same era shows a probable live model for the jeweler, who often made use of the zoo's caged studios for artists.


New York Zoological Park postcard showing one of two 800-pound polar bears captured at Kane Basin in July 1910. The pair, a male and female known as Silver King and Silver Queen, resided with their offspring at the Zoological Park into the 1920s

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