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Forged in Fire

Forged in Fire

Marie Zimmermann; from Heiress to Craftswoman

21 May 2018

Marie Zimmermann (1879 – 1972) is considered the most versatile and skilled craftswoman of the 20th century with an oeuvre that spanned movements, styles, and mediums. A female pioneer in metallurgy, a field dominated almost exclusively by men, she dedicated the first 25 years of her career to learning the techniques she would later employ in artworks produced in her own atelier from the 1910s through the 1930s. The result was a rich outpouring of work as varied as it is impressive. She produced jewelry, candelabra, vessels, garden gates, and more, in a dizzying array of materials--gold, silver, bronze, copper and iron. She was also a painter, sculptor and furniture maker.

It is nearly impossible to ascribe Zimmermann’s creations to a single artistic movement or period. In nearly every piece she created, aesthetic inspirations drawn from ancient Egyptian, Classical and Chinese forms mingle with traces of Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Art and Crafts motifs. A fearless designer, she experimented eclectically with materials, surfaces, colors and applied ornamentation, so that a jewel-encrusted steel dagger might recall elaborate Mughal scabbards, or a brilliantly enameled jewel casket with stylized palmettes might evoke ancient Egypt.

Lot 2050 - Marie Zimmermann Tourmaline, Multi-Gem Enameled Yellow Gold Ring
Est. $6,000 – 8,000

Zimmermann’s astonishing creative range was widely recognized by her contemporaries. In 1926, journalist Harriet Ashbrook of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle described Zimmermann as “perhaps the most versatile artist in the country,” going on to proclaim, “there is hardly a beautiful thing which human hands can make that Miss Zimmermann hasn’t made.”

Lot 2051 - Marie Zimmermann Enameled Yellow Gold & Gem-Set Collar Necklace
Est. $35,000 – 55,000

In 1940, Marie Zimmermann closed her studio following a tragic five-year period in which all of her family passed away. She is believed to have sold or bequeathed to intimate friends and household staff some of her most substantial pieces. The descendants of Melita (Bessie) Stewart and Ida Egli have consigned Lot 2050 and 2051 respectively. Both women were housekeepers, cooks and, eventually, companions to Zimmermann and her partner Ruth Allen. They jointly inherited Zimmermann’s Punta Gorda, Florida home after Zimmermann’s death there in 1972 on her ninety-third birthday.

Marie Zimmermann from Rago Arts and Auction Center on Vimeo.

View these rare works by Marie Zimmermann, as well as antique and modern diamond, gem set, and designer jewelry, including works by Cartier, Tiffany & Co., and Buccellati, in the online catalogs for our June 8 and 10 Fine and Unreserved Jewelry Auctions, here.