Philippe Wolfers


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(b Brussels, 16 April 1858; d Brussels, 13 Dec 1929). Belgian jeweller, designer and sculptor. The son of the master goldsmith Louis Wolfers (1820-92), he entered his father's workshop as an apprentice. Influenced by the Rococo Revival and Japanese art, in the 1880s he created sensitively curved pieces in gold and silver decorated with asymmetrically distributed floral motifs, which heralded the Art Nouveau style (e.g. ewer, Le Maraudeur, c. 1880; Brussels, Musées Royaux A. & Hist.). After 1890 he produced two kinds of work: goldsmithing and jewellery designs for production by Wolfers Frères and one-off pieces that were produced to his own designs in the workshop that he had established c. 1890-92. Typical of the latter are Art Nouveau goldsmiths’ work and jewellery (e.g. orchid hair ornament, 1902; London, V&A), crystal vases carved into cameos and ivory pieces. Ivory was then in plentiful supply from the Congo, and from 1893 Wolfers used it to make unusual pieces with such evocative titles as Stroking a Swan (an ivory and bronze vase with marble base, 1897; Musées Royaux A. & Hist.) and Civilisation and Barbarism (a work combining ivory, silver and marble, 1897; untraced). His creations were well received at the Exposition Internationale in Antwerp (1894) and at the Exposition Internationale in Brussels (1897). Encouraged by this success he committed Wolfers Frères to the Art Nouveau style. He exhibited at the Munich Secession (1898, 1899) and in 1900 showed an important collection of his jewellery at the Paris Salon. In 1902 he exhibited one of his most astonishing creations at the Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte Decorativa in Turin: Fairy with Peacock (untraced; drawing, priv. col.), an electric lamp in the form of a nude ivory figure surrounded by enamelled metal peacock feathers set with precious stones.


From The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Decorative Arts, Furniture, and Industrial Design.

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