Saturday, October 14, 2017

PORTRAIT ENCHASED IN GOLD


Chrysanthemum frame for an intaglio portrait by Gustav Manz, circa 1910 

Warm days and cool nights bring out the mums—a motif, inspired by Japanese art, favored by Tiffany and Gorham silversmiths in the 19th century. Gustav Manz's circa 1910 pendant adapts the flower to frame the profile of a chignon-coiffed young woman incised in a deep yellow tablet-cut stone. Gypsy-set olivines and a reddish-purple garnet add sparkle to the chrysanthemum leaves and surmounting blossom surrounding her face—all carved by hand. The gold-work is undoubtedly Manz's, but the portrait may have been executed by Ottavio Negri, an intaglio artist renowned for his reproductions of ancient Roman and Greek carvings. 

The Roman-born Negri studied with Augustus St. Gaudens, and counted gem collector J.P. Morgan among his acquaintances (both were members of the New York Mineralogical Club). Negri supplied carved gems to other jewelry designers who like Manz favored classical and historical forms: such as Elinor Evans Klapp (another Manz client); he was also mentor to mid-century gem engraver Beth Benton Sutherland, whose subjects included the children of modern industrialists. Sutherland, who in turn became a champion of the ancient art, used moonstone to set her contemporary work apart from the sardonyx and carnelian engravings favored by the ancients. 


The model or inspiration for the young woman in the stone portrait in Manz's piece has not been identified, but the pendant passed to his eldest daughter, whose birth flower was a chrysanthemum. It and two other jewels by Manz were featured in the 2012 exhibit "Finer Things" at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, which highlighted the fashions and pastimes of an era that looked back one last time before plunging headlong into the modern age.  


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