Collection Wolfers & Petrucci: Hidden Treasures

stjohn

Catalogue of the selling exhibition in Galerie St-John, Ghent (Belgium), exhibition from the 23rd of November to the 24th of December. 100 sculptures and (art) objects by Philippe and Marcel Wolfers, silver by Wolfers Frères, etc.

Collection

Wolfers & Petrucci

Hidden Treasures


collection

Wolfers & Petrucci


Charles Lefebure (1862–1943),

autochrome portrait of Clairette Petrucci, ca. 1910


hidden treasures

Collection

Marcel Wolfers &

1886–1976

Clairette Petrucci

1899–1994

Raf Steel

Emmy Steel


Please note that

All objects in the catalogue are for sale.

On demand, condition reports can be provided.

The original, in this case French, titles are used.

Dimensions are noted as: height × width × depth and in

centimetre.

With each object, we have tried to assemble the most relevant

information. The list of exhibitions only includes those

exhibitions where the object, presented here, was shown.

In those cases where we are not certain that our particular

piece was the one presented on a specific (often historic)

exhibition, or that possibly another cast was shown, we have

chosen to add the phrase “Possibly this example (?)”.

With each object we have also added a selective bibliography,

which only includes the books or catalogues featuring the

object shown at our exhibition. We have chosen not to include

periodicals unless they have a historic relevance.

Also, books or catalogues which we have not been able to

consult ourselves, are not included in the lists if there could be

a doubt about the identification of the specific object included

in that book or catalogue.

Almost all pieces in this catalogue have as a provenance

the historic collection of Philippe Wolfers and/or the Marcel

Wolfers-Clairette Petrucci collection. The provenance of these

artworks or objects is proven by contemporary photographs,

inventories or statements of the artists themselves. However

this does not mean that the pieces have remained with their

direct descendants. We have included a couple of significant

works by Philippe or Marcel Wolfers or Wolfers Frères that

have other provenances. In those cases either the provenance

is stated or it is made clear that they have belonged to other

collections.

We have tried to be accurate and precise, but often, due to lack

of documents or contradicting testimonies, a margin of error

has to be taken into account.

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Introduction

The image we have of the production of Wolfers Frères and the creations of

Philippe and Marcel Wolfers, has been defined by the objects from the collection

of Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci. Since the 1960’s, these artists-collectors

have actively sought to reinstate the name and fame of Philippe Wolfers’ art

nouveau and art deco designs, and to give to his sculptural work the attention

it deserved. Through lending works of art to museums worldwide, through

encouraging publications of photographs and articles on Wolfers and donating

works to public collections, they succeeded in giving Wolfers a place in the

international art historic pantheon. By looking at the pieces in their collection,

we have discovered magnificent jewels, objects and sculptures of the period when

Belgium was one of the richest economies in the west and when it was a nation

whose culture and art was an example to the world. This was art from the era

when Belgium mattered and which was copied throughout the western world.

Today, we look at these art objects that have been exhibited worldwide with

a sense of recognition. These are the images that spring to mind when we

think of art nouveau, of artists’ jewellery, of turn-of-the-century sculpture,

etc. The Wolfers-Petrucci collection is of historic importance. It is a collection

composed of art historical treasures, we can now offer for sale.

But, the collection of Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci is not simply a

treasure trove. It is the result of a way of life, of a fusion of two personalities, who

have lived for and through art. It was also an organic collection, shaped through

the changing ideas of the couple, trying to understand art, coping with a quickly

changing world and shifting from one social milieu into another.

Marcel Wolfers was born into one of the richest families of the country. His father,

Philippe Wolfers aided by two brothers and a nephew, took the regional workshop

of his father, Louis Wolfers, and built it into a multinational company, Wolfers

Frères. The firm was active in Belgium, Germany, France, Holland, England, the

Austrian-Hungarian Empire and had it not been for two World Wars, they would

have conquered America.

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Philippe Wolfers was an artistic

genius. He was largely a selftaught

artist, but at the height of

his career, he was considered one

of the most important designers

of applied art, silverware and

jewellery of the Western world.

Furthermore, he was seen as one

of the leading Belgian sculptors

of his generation. Surrounded

by his family, he was able to

cash in on his talents (which

also included architecture and

music). Philippe Wolfers became

a millionaire, lived in a large cottage built by Paul Hankar (then a leading avantgarde

architect), collected contemporary art which he displayed in his townhouse

on the Square Marie-Louise, a then fashionable part of Brussels. And he wanted

his only son to follow in his footsteps.

Philippe and Marcel Wolfers, Sofie Willstädter and unknown, before 1914

And so the son did, but maybe not in the way his father thought he would. Marcel

Wolfers could be called an artistic prodigy. Learning the tricks of the trade from

the best craftsmen working at Wolfers Frères and studying drawing and sculpture

with sculptor Isidore De Rudder and at La Patte au Dindon, an independent

ad-hoc private academy, he made his first art nouveau designs for a cup and

a dish before the age of fifteen. His most powerful sculptures date from between

1910 and 1914, when the artist was only in his twenties. But then came the First

World War, and Marcel Wolfers volunteered. It was an experience that changed

the dandyesque Marcel Wolfers and turned him into a philosophical and serious

man, albeit with a love for nature and life. The war completely reshaped his

art. No more powerful and expressionist sculptures, but human and subdued

compositions. The difficult task he set for himself to master the art of lacquer,

also needs to be seen in this light. The “Zen” attitude one has to adopt while

working with this notoriously difficult material, helped him cope with everyday

chores he had to fulfil in the family company, Wolfers Frères. It is also this

changed Marcel Wolfers who fell in love with Clairette Petrucci.

She was born into a family of free thinkers. From her father, Raphael Petrucci,

who died when she was eighteen, she inherited her self-consciousness and

intelligence. From her mother, Claire Petrucci-Verwee, she learned how to live

the life of an independent woman in what was gradually becoming the dawn of

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Raphael Petrucci, Clairette Petrucci and Claire Petrucci-Verwee in the workshop

of Alfred Verwee, ca. 1910

a modern, new and exciting

world. Clairette must have

been an extraordinary

woman. Muse to artists,

already from a very young

age, she became central to the

lives of several young men.

Henry Lavachery, Vladimir

(Valdia) Peniakoff, Paul

Simon, Edy du Perron and

Marcel Wolfers all fell under

her spell. Each and every one

of these men, who all became

important personalities

in their respective fields; writers, researchers or artists, could not forget her

and most of them kept in touch with Clairette over the years. It is difficult to

understand why Clairette had such an appeal to bright men, but with hindsight,

one can assume that her intelligence, wit and modernity combined with her aura

(for lack of a better word) must have stood her apart from a lot of women of her

class. When she married Marcel Wolfers in 1923, it was on her terms. To his credit,

Marcel Wolfers did not prevent her to pursue

her own career after their marriage. Clairette

often travelled alone to Paris, Brussels or Italy

to see her friends. After a grand honeymoon,

on which the couple bought folk art, textiles

and brought back many curiosities of eastern

European craftsmen, they settled in their

luxurious modernist apartment in the rue de

Praetere in Brussels (Ixelles). The building

was designed by the “gentleman-architect”

J.-J. Eggericx, and was commissioned by Claire

Petrucci, mother of Clairette. The apartment

was considered to be an exquisite example of

modern interior design, and featured in the

Italian magazine Domus in 1930.

The sudden death of Philippe Wolfers in 1929

and the subsequent demise of the Wolfers

Frères firm, due to the financial crisis of the

1930’s, was of great importance for Marcel

Marcel Wolfers by photographer Boute (Brussels), ca. 1910

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and Clairette’s way of life. The Wolfers

family fortune evaporated. Marcel and

his siblings had to sell off the collection

of modern art of Philippe Wolfers and

his house on the Square Marie-Louise.

Depending now completely on Wolfers

Frères S.A. for their livelihood, Marcel

and Clairette decided to leave Brussels

and move to their immense historic

inn (le relais) in Vieusart. Filled to

the brim with souvenirs, art, antiques

and contemporary design, it became

the place where they invited friends

and family. Clairette kept a “Livre

d’Or” which carries the signatures of

amongst others: Marcel Louis Baugniet,

Jeanne Bergson, Maurice Brocas, Eve Clairette Petrucci at her Vieusart workshop, ca. 1937

Curie, Paul Delvaux, Marie Gevers,

Norge, Herman Teirlinck, Henry van de Velde, Ossip Zadkine, Alain Bombard,

Charles Leirens, Robert and René Guiette, Jean Milo, Willy Eisenschitz, Anto

Carte, Jean Besnard, Roger Fry, Pierre Caille, Antoine de Vinck, Maud Gerard,

Marie Howet, Ottorino Respighi, Juliette Cambier, Gustavo Cochet, Willem

Paerels, Jules M. Canneel,…

Vieusart became the place where they reoriented their collection and made it

a personal statement. A lot of pieces that were inherited were sold, and other

objects were bought to fit in with the world that Marcel and Clairette created

around them. A lot of work of artist-friends was displayed on the walls and every

object in the house had its history. When both the mother of Marcel and Clairette

passed away, their collection was enriched with items of the collection of Philippe

Wolfers and with the modern art and Asian art collection of Claire Petrucci.

When Marcel and Clairette saw how the 1960’s were literally erasing the art

nouveau history of Brussels they had the idea to start preserving and collecting

the work of Philippe Wolfers. Marcel Wolfers even had to rescue the archives of

his father when the firm of Wolfers decided to leave the building at the Arenberg

street. A large part of the company archive had already been destroyed by then.

From then onwards, the collection of Marcel and Clairette Wolfers-Petrucci

became important to both exhibition makers and researchers. Numerous art

historians turned to Marcel and to Clairette, who had an infallible memory,

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to acquire information on artists and/or objects form the art nouveau and art

deco periods. Their treasures travelled the world and were displayed in numerous

museums. If they thought that a piece could be a great ambassador for the work

of Philippe Wolfers outside their collection, they sold it or gave it to a public

institution. Most items however, stayed at Vieusart, where they almost made a

part of the household. When Marcel past away in 1976, the collection started to

be broken up. With the passing away of Clairette, most of the French furniture

(by Ruhlmann and Dominique) and foreign applied arts were sold in London in

1996. The collection of Wolfers objects and art, being too intricately related to the

family history, was given to family members.

With this exhibition, we want to bring back the splendour of the historic

Collection of Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci. We have tried to assemble

many important works of art and decorative arts that once lived in the houses of

Philippe Wolfers, or at Vieusart. After all these years they meet again, preparing

for a great journey to their next destination.

Clairette Petrucci at her Dominique desk, rue de Praetere, Brussels, ca. 1928

Marcel Wolfers at 55, rue des Champs-Elysées, Brussels,

the home of Claire Petrucci–Verwee, ca. 1925

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10

The Workshop of Louis Wolfers, Père et Fils in the rue des Longs-Chariots, ca. 1890

(Louis Wolfers standing in black suit)


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Louis Wolfers

Tea service, 1852–1858

Silver, partially gilt inside and ivory

Dimensions: Tea pot: height 18,5 cm, lenght 27,5 cm (from spout to handle)

Marked: Tea pot: Maker’s mark of Louis Wolfers, assay master mark of Nicolas Monoyer, “Janus Head”

on the bottom of the base

Sugar pot: Maker’s mark of Louis Wolfers, assay master mark of Nicolas Monoyer on the bottom

of the base, “Janus Head” on the inside of the lid

Cream jug: Maker’s mark of Louis Wolfers, assay master mark of Nicolas Monoyer on the bottom

of the base, “Janus Head” near the top rim

Provenance:

Louis Wolfers (?)

Philippe Wolfers (by descent ?)

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent,

Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 4 (with photo)

The three piece coffee set is typical of the earliest production of the Louis Wolfers

workshop. The assay mark of Nicolas Monoyer, active in Brussels from 1832

to 1858, makes it possible to date the service between 1852 and 1858 (for the

Monoyer mark see Van Dievoet W., Algemeen Repertorium van de edelsmeden

en van de merken van edelsmeedwerk in België II 1798–1942, Brussel, Academie

voor de geschiedenis van de edelsmeedkunst in België, 2010, p. 46, entry 030).

Of good weight, impeccable finish and with an ivory handle for the cream jug,

this service was intended for a well-to-do household. The produce of the Louis

Wolfers workshop was typical for the period’s taste and indeed for produces of the

Brussels’ silversmiths, but in these early years lacked the personality of the later

designs of the 1880’s that set Wolfers apart from their peers.

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Philippe Wolfers

Pitcher Le Vin or Bacchus, 1895

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 32,5 × 22,5 cm

Signed: “Ph. Wolfers” near the base edge, beneath the handle

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Cercle Artistique et Littéraire de Bruxelles,

11/04–29/04/1895, cat. No. 13 (possibly this

example ?)

London, St-George’s Gallery, 1895, cat. No. 23 (a pewter

example)

Mons, Salon Triennal – Société des Beaux-Arts, 1896,

cat. No. 774 (possibly this example ?)

München, Secession – Internationalen Kunst-Austellung

des Vereins bildender Künstler Münchens, April

1898, cat. No. 490 (possibly this example?)

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 27.

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 11

Buenos Aires, Museo de Arte Moderno de la Ciudad de

Buenos Aires, 01/06–29/07/1990, cat. No 171

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 58

Bibliography:

Pol de Mont in De Vlaamsche School, jg. 8

(nieuwe reeks), 1895, p. 50

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 16–17 (with photo)

En Belgica, El Art Nouveau 1893–1905, Buenos Aires,

1990, p. 67

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 63 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 316 (No. 9)

To our eyes today an unusual piece, the pitcher “Le Vin” (The Wine) remained

an important object to Philippe Wolfers. It took a place of honour at the Brussels

exhibition in 1895 and got favourably reviewed by the press. The pitcher was

edited in pewter and bronze and was one of the models edited by Emile Müller in

glazed stoneware. It is not impossible that Philippe Wolfers designed it with the

German market – a very important market for Wolfers firm – in mind.

This version, which belonged to Philippe Wolfers personally, has a magnificent

patina, which could indicate that the artist himself was responsible for the

patination of the cast.

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Philippe Wolfers

Vases Pavot or Poppy, 1895

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: A. 25 × 8,5 cm / B. 25,5 × 8,5 cm

Signed: A. “Ph. Wolfers / 95” near the base edge. / B. “Ph. Wolfers / 95” near the base edge

Marked: A. Unmarked / B. “J Petermann / Bruxelles” on the bottom of the base

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Pour l’Art – Troisième exposition annuelle,

12/01 – 02/1895, cat. No. 4 (possibly one of these

examples ?)

Brussels, Cercle Artistique et Littéraire de Bruxelles,

11/04–29/04/1895, cat. No. 15 (possibly one of these

examples ?)

London, St-George’s Gallery, 1895, cat. No. 24 (possibly

one of these examples ?)

Paris, Galerie l’Art Nouveau (Samuel Bing), December

1895, cat. No. 654 (possibly one of these examples ?)

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 26.

(both vases)

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 9 (both vases)

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 60

Bibliography:

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 16 (with photo)

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 64 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 316 (No. 7)

Both vases belonged to the collection of Philippe Wolfers. Curiously they

seem to have two different founders. The smallest vase is marked with the

early “J. Petermann Bruxelles” foundry mark, the largest is unmarked. There

is also a slight difference in patination and finish. It is not unthinkable that the

largest vase was founded at the Wolfers firm. The “Pavot” vase, in contemporary

catalogues labelled as a ‘porte-bouquet’ also exists in a pewter edition. Of all

of the bronze vases designed by Philippe Wolfers, this seems to have been

the most popular model: up to this day at least 5 examples of the design have

been catalogued in different

collections, these two included.

Although in most recent

exhibition catalogues both vases

are referred to as ‘a pair’, the

difference in height and finish of

the vases does not support this

theory.

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Philippe Wolfers

Ewer Orchid, 1895

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 30,5 (with handle) × 20 cm

Signed: “Ph. Wolfers” on the side, beneath the handle

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Cercle Artistique et Littéraire de Bruxelles,

11/04–29/04/1895, cat. No. 14 (possibly this

example ?)

London, St-George’s Gallery, 1895, cat. No. 22 (possibly

this example?)

Paris, Galerie l’Art Nouveau (Samuel Bing), December

1895, cat. No. 654 (possibly this example?)

München, Secession – Internationalen Kunst-Austellung

des Vereins bildender Künstler Münchens, April

1898, cat. No. 491 (possibly this example?)

Turin, Prima Esposizione internationale d’arte decorative

moderna, 1902, (possibly this example?)

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 30.

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 10

Buenos Aires, Museo de Arte Moderno de la Ciudad de

Buenos Aires, 01/06–29/07/1990, cat. No 171

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 128

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 128

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 61

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Turin, s.l., 1994, cat. No. 180.

Bibliography:

H. Fierens-Gevaert, La Sezione Belga all’Esposizione

d’Arte Decorativa Moderna in L’Arte Decorativa

Moderna – Rivista di Architettura e di Decorazione

della Casa e della Via, Torino, Camilla E Bertolero,

Anno I, Giugno 1902 N. 6, p. 180 (photo)

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 16–17 (with photo)

En Belgica, El Art Nouveau 1893–1905, Buenos Aires,

1990, p. 67

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 90

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 64 (with photo)

Torino 1902 – Le Arti Decorative Internationali del

Nuovo Secolo, Torino, Fabbri Editori, 1994, p. 230

(full page photo) & p. 252 (with photo)

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent, Design

museum Gent, 2006, p. 16 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 318 (No. 13)

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20

As all bronze objects designed by Philippe Wolfers around 1895–1896, these were

meant to be executed in a series of up to 12 casts (see München catalogue of 1898).

It is however not sure that the series was completed, as the ewers were cast and

finished to order. As is often the case for his earliest art nouveau designs, the ewer

was also edited by Louis Wolfers, père et fils in pewter.

The Orchid ewer remains one of the most important and innovative designs

of the artist. It is also one of the earliest examples of his art nouveau designs,

exhibited throughout Europe and therefore this design had an important

influence on the shaping of the art nouveau vocabulary. The ewer was amongst

others included in the opening exhibition of Samuel Bing’s Salon de l’Art

Nouveau in Paris in 1895 and was shown in the same year at (the opening?) of the

Burrington and Boss’ St-George’s Gallery in London.

Apart from a pewter model of the Orchids Ewer that our gallery sold in 2014,

we do not know of other examples that have been available on the art market for

the last 10 years.


Philippe Wolfers

Oeillets Visiting Card Tray, 1895–1897

Silver

Dimensions: 17,2 × 12 cm

Marked: just beneath the stem of the carnation, with a variant of the Wolfers Maker’s mark incorporating a cipher

“1” for the alloy of 950/1000 and the French “Charançon” mark, not in use before the 29th of June 1893

Visiting card trays were popular in the Belle Epoque period. This small tray

betrays a Japonist influence. The unusual Wolfers mark, incorporating the cipher

one, could indicate an early execution around 1895–1897. The 950 alloy indicates

that the piece was made for export, a thesis proven by the French import mark

applied next to the maker’s mark. A version of the famous claret jug “Pivoines”

from the collection of the DIVA Museum in Antwerp (inv. No. S97/12) bears the

same maker’s mark.

In the photographic archives of Wolfers Frères, this piece is catalogued under

the number Lc 115/1. It is photographed together with its variant 115/2. This serial

number also points to design prior to 1897.

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Philippe Wolfers

Orchidéa, 1896

Patinated metal in the original marquetry frame

Dimensions: 69 × 56,5 cm (with frame)

Signed: “Ph. Wolfers 92” bottom centre, in the metal

This work is unique.

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Exposition Internationale de Bruxelles, 1897

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 40.

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 38

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 19/12/1980–15/02/1981,

cat. No. 211 & 590

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 184

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 184

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 43

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal (1858–

1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979, p. 33

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 95

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 56 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W.; Steel R., De Wolfers Dynastie – van

art nouveau tot art deco, Gent, Design museum

Gent, 2006, p. 47 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 319 (No. 16)

Portraits are a rarity in the work of Philippe Wolfers. This large relief, of which

the artist made small medal versions in silver, ivory, and in bronze is therefore

very exceptional. But then so is the mysterious “Orchidéa”, none other than the

wife of Philippe Wolfers, Sofie Willstädter (1864–1946). Wolfers depicted his

spouse in profile, and modelled her hair to resemble the form of the leaves of

an orchid, hence the name. Also very unusual is the original ornate art nouveau

marquetery frame in which the relief was mounted. Although we cannot establish

it for certain through archival

documents, it is very likely that the

floral decoration, echoing the title of

the work, was designed by Philippe

Wolfers himself.

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Philippe Wolfers

Vase Une Orchidée!, 1896

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 28,5 × 13,5 cm

Signed: “Ph. Wolfers / 96” on the lower part of the vase

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

München, Secession – Internationalen Kunst-Austellung

des Vereins bildender Künstler Münchens, April

1898, cat. No. 492 (possibly this example?)

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 8

Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 09/12/1980 –

15/02/1981, No. 210

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 130

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 130

Prague, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, 1995, cat. No. 160

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Philippe J., Le Val Saint-Lambert – Ses cristalleries et

l’art du verre en Belgique, Liège, Eugène Wahle, 1980,

p. 208 (photo No. 144)

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 15 (with photo)

Art Nouveau Belgique, Bruxelles, Société des

Expositions Palais des Beaux-Arts, 1980, p. 282 (with

photo)

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 60 (photo) & p. 90

Belgická Secese, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, p. 82

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent, Design

museum Gent, 2006, p. 12 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 320 (No. 21)

This vase was made in an unique version in crystal and silver and also in an

edition in pewter and bronze. Although the bronze edition was intended to be

made in up to 12 casts, it is almost certain that less than 12 were made, due to

the extremely limited number of vases known to us today.

26


Philippe Wolfers

Vase Fantasia or Fantaisie d’Orchidées, 1896

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 26,5 × 15,2 cm

Signed: “Ph. Wolfers / 96” on the lower part of the vase

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Paris, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, 25/04 –

30/06/1896, cat. No. 422 (possibly this example ?)

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 31

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 6

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation,

05/11–05/12/1991, cat. No. 129

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 129

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 67.2

Prague, Musée des Arts Decoratifs, 1995, cat. No. 159

Bibliography:

Catalogue des ouvrages de Peinture, Sculpture,

Dessins, Gravure, Architecture et Objets d’Art, Paris,

Champ-de-Mars, 1896, p. 288

Philippe Wolfers 1858–1929 – Précurseur de l’Art

Nouveau – Statuaire, Bruxelles, Galerie l’Ecuyer,

1972, s.p.

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 15 (with photo)

Philippe J., Le Val Saint-Lambert – Ses cristalleries et

l’art du verre en Belgique, Liège, Eugène Wahle, 1980,

p. 210 (photo No. 146a)

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 60 (photo) & p. 90

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 67 (with photo)

Belgická Secese, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, p. 82

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 321 (No. 23)

The unique version in crystal belongs to the Museum für Kunst-, Stadt- und

Theatergeschichte im Reiss-Museum in Mannheim (Germany). There exists a

slightly smaller version in glazed ceramic, produced and edited by the firm of

Emile Müller & Cie. The bronze edition was again limited to 12 casts, but the

actual number of executed bronze vases has to be very limited. The entry in

the 1896 catalogue of the Paris Salon reads: “Vase à Fleurs – fantaisie orchidées

Cyclamens (bronze Japon)” It is unclear what the addition of ‘Japanese bronze’

in the title stands for. It could be a

reference to the technique used or

it could simply have been used for

publicity reasons, Japonism then being

acknowledged as ‘en vogue’ by the main

stream art lover/collector. Also the

addition ‘cyclamens’ seems strange and

is probably a mistake, because the flower

is not to be found on this vase.

28


Philippe Wolfers

Vase Cyclamen, 1896

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 31,5 × 13,7 cm

Signed: “Ph. Wolfers” on the lower part of the vase

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Exposition Internationale de Bruxelles, 1897

(probably the version that is now in the Museum

für Kunst-, Stadt- und Theatergeschichte im Reiss-

Museum, Mannheim)

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 7

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 135

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 135

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 65

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Philippe J., Le Val Saint-Lambert – Ses cristalleries et

l’art du verre en Belgique, Liège, Eugène Wahle, 1980,

p. 208 (photo No. 144)

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 15 (with photo)

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 60 (photo) & p. 90

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 66 (with photo)

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent, Design

museum Gent, 2006, p. 13 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 321 (No. 22)

Of this magnificent art nouveau design, Philippe Wolfers made a unique version

in crystal and silver. Apart from the bronze edition (again conceived for a

maximum of 12 casts), no editions in other materials seem to have been made.

Up to this date, only two bronze versions are known, the vase in the Mannheim

museum which was bought at the Brussels exhibition of 1897 by Carl and Anna

Reiss and this vase from the personal collection of Philippe Wolfers.

30


Philippe Wolfers

Orchidée inkwell, 1895–1897

Silver and crystal

Dimensions: 12 × 8 cm

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (by descent)

Exhibited:

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

The orchid inkwell belongs to a series of inkwells of the same type. The recipient

is made in cut and polished crystal, most certainly executed by the firm of

Val Saint-Lambert. The silver, executed by the firm of Louis Wolfers, père et fils

(II) after a design by Philippe Wolfers, can vary in decoration. We have found the

silver lid of the inkwell with a floral art nouveau decoration or with the so-called

“L XV Wolfers” rocaille patterns. More often than not, the silver of the inkwell is

not marked, as is the case here. The crystal recipient can vary in size and motif,

and sometimes the inkwell comes with a crystal tray.

Coming from the collection of Philippe Wolfers, it is tempting to assume he

used it for his personal correspondence.

32


Philippe Wolfers

Orchidée planter, 1897

Glazed stoneware

Dimensions: 10 × 8 cm

Signed: “PWolfers” and “E. Müller” on the top edge

Marked: “T.6” and “N°5” on the bottom

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Ostend, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 03/06–

30/09/1967, cat. No. 409.

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 36

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 13

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 136

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 136

Prague, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, cat. No. 161

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Europa 1900, Brussel, Ed. de la Connaissance, 1967, p. 73

Philippe Wolfers 1858–1929 Précurseur de l’Art Nouveau

Statuaire. Exposition Rétrospective, Galerie l’Ecuyer,

1972, s.p.

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 18 (with photo)

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 91

Belgická Secese 1893–1905 Wallonie-Bruxelles, Prague,

Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, p. 82

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 318 (No. 15)

The “Orchids” planter is one of the first fully art nouveau objects that Philippe

Wolfers designed. The small planter was designed in 1895 and first executed

in bronze. A year later Philippe Wolfers showed the plaster model of the large

planter in Paris.

According to family history, Wolfers was approached by Emile Müller of the

“Grande Tuilerie d’Ivry – Emile Müller & Cie.” at the Brussels exhibition of 1897.

Müller was not a stranger to the Belgian market and besides Wolfers, he also

edited pieces by other Belgian artists, most notably by Isidore De Rudder. Müller

asked Wolfers to edit some

models in glazed earthenware

or stoneware. From 1897

onwards, Emile Müller got the

rights to edit several models by

Philippe Wolfers: the small and

large version of the “Orchidée”

planter, the ewer “Le Vin”, the

vase “Fantasia” and maybe

some other models that have

not yet been rediscovered.

34


36

The large version of the “Orchidée” planter was produced by Müller under the

serial number 365, but we do not have the serial number for the small versions.

The inscriptions on the bottom “T.6” and “No 5” on this piece differ from those of

another version which has the inscriptions “T.2” and “No 2”. The exact meaning

of these inscriptions is not known. We do not know how many copies Müller

executed, his editions were not numbered and supply followed demand. We do

know of at least 4 different examples of the model that came onto the art market

in the last 10 years.

This specific planter belonged to the collection of Philippe and later Marcel

Wolfers and starred in numerous museum exhibitions.


Philippe Wolfers’ workshop, ca. 1896


Philippe Wolfers

Teapot Orchids, circa 1897

Silver, with wicker around the handle

Dimensions: 14 (with handle) × 14 cm

Marked: on the bottom of the base with the Wolfers Maker’s mark, an obliterated seller’s mark (probably of

E. Goldschmidt (Köln)), alloy mark for 800/1000, and a Viennese import mark (between 1872–1902)

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 30

Buenos Aires, Museo de Arte Moderno de la Ciudad de

Buenos Aires, 01/06–29/07/1990, cat. No. 170

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation,

05/11–05/12/1991, cat. No. 151

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 151

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 55

Antwerp, Provinciaal Museum Sterckshof –

Zilvercentrum, 15/09–13/12/1998, cat. No. 129

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 29 (with photo)

En Belgica, El Art Nouveau 1893–1905, Bruxelles, Arcure,

1990, p. 42 (photo) & p. 67

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p.92 (photo without

p. No.)

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 62 (with photo)

Sterckshof Studies 10: Van Belle Epoque tot Art

Nouveau – Belgisch Zilver 1868–1914, Antwerpen,

Sterckhof Zilvercentrum, 1998, p. 235 (with photo)

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent, Design

museum Gent, 2006, p. 10 (with photo)

This Orchids teapot belongs to the group of early designs by Philippe Wolfers

in art nouveau style from between 1892 and 1897. Typical features of the early

designs are a very simple and undecorated nob and spout and secondly the use of

wicker as an insulator around the handle. The teapot is to be compared with the

small three piece coffee service “Marguerites” from the Museum für Kunst und

Gewerbe in Hamburg.

Since the first Wolfers retrospective in Ghent in 1979, this ‘égoïste’ teapot has

been included in all major Wolfers retrospectives around the world.

38


Philippe Wolfers

Ewer Les Lys, 1897

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 30 × 20 cm (with handle)

Signed: “Ph. Wolfers” on the side, beneath the handle

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Turin, Prima Esposizione internationale d’arte decorative

moderna, 1902, (possibly this example?)

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 33.

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 5

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 131

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 131

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 68 (cast from the collection of the Design

museum Gent, Inv. No. 88/12)

Prague, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, cat. No. 158

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Turin, s.l., 1994, cat. No. 181.

Bibliography:

H. Fierens-Gevaert, La Sezione Belga all’Esposizione

d’Arte Decorativa Moderna in L’Arte Decorativa

Moderna – Rivista di Architettura e di Decorazione

della Casa e della Via, Torino, Camilla E Bertolero,

Anno I, Giugno 1902 N. 6, p. 179

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 14 (with photo)

Philippe J., Le Val Saint-Lambert – Ses cristalleries et

l’art du verre en Belgique, Liège, Eugène Wahle, 1980,

p. 208 (photo No. 144)

En Belgica, El Art Nouveau 1893–1905, Buenos Aires,

1990, p. 67

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 90

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 64 (with photo)

Torino 1902 – Le Arti Decorative Internationali del

Nuovo Secolo, Torino, Fabbri Editori, 1994, p. 252

(with photo)

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent, Design

museum Gent, 2006, p. 12 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 322 (No.27 )

Goubert K., Cahier 3 Meeserlijk (zilver)design – De

Wolfersverzameling, Gent, Design Museum Gent,

2012, p. 38–39 (with photo)

The Lilies Ewer was designed in 1897 and already shows an evolution in the art

nouveau style of Philippe Wolfers. Naturalism and asymmetry are to be gradually

replaced by stylisation and symmetry in the years to come. The ewer was one of the

most important objects at the Turin 1902 exhibition show of the artist. He asked

the architect Leon Sneyers to design a special pedestal, which only supported the

circular base of the ewer and consequently had the piece float in space.

The ewer was meant to be executed in a series of up to 12 casts (see München

catalogue of 1898). Up to date only two versions are known. One in the collection

of the Design museum Gent (provenance: a member of the Wolfers family) and

this cast which was kept by Philippe Wolfers himself.

40


Philippe Wolfers

Buckle Flirt, 1897–1898

Patinated silver and gilt silver

Dimensions: 9 × 12,2 cm

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Pour l’Art, Jan-Febr/1899, cat. No. 3.1 (possibly

another example)

München, Secession – Internationalen Kunst-Austellung

des Vereins bildender Künstler Münchens, April

1898, cat. No. 621 (possibly another example)

Hamburg, Ausstellung Belgischer Künstler. Constantin

Meunier – Victor Rousseau – Hélène De Rudder –

Isidore De Rudder – Ch. Van der Stappen – Philippe

Wolfers, Hamburgisches Museum für Kunst und

Gewerbe, Nov.-Dec./1901, cat. Nr. 19 (possibly

another example)

London, Goldsmiths’ Hall, 26/10–02/12/1961,

cat. No. 884

Ostend, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 03/06–

30/09/1967, cat. No. 293.

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 45.

Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, 07/11–20/11/1973, cat. No. 12

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 52

Brussels, Art Nouveau Belgique, Palais des Beaux-Arts,

19/12/1980–15/02/1981, cat. No. 819

Buenos Aires, Museo de Arte Moderno de la Ciudad de

Buenos Aires, 01/06–29/07/1990, cat. No 175

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 3

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 3

Prague, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, cat. No. 172

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Hugues G., International Exhibition of modern jewellery

1890–1961, London, The Worshipful Company of

Goldsmiths, 1961, s.p.

Europa 1900 – Schilderijen, Tekeningen,

Beeldhouwwerken, juwelen, Brussel, Ed. de la

Connaissance, 1967, p. 47

Gioielli di Artisti Belgi dal 1900 al 1973, Milano, Museo

Poldi Pezzoli, 1973, s.p. (with photo)

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 16–17 (with photo)

En Belgica, El Art Nouveau 1893–1905, Buenos Aires,

1990, p. 43 (with photo) & p. 67

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 43 (with photo)

& p. 81

Belgická Secese 1893–1905 Wallonie-Bruxelles, Prague,

Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, p. 83

Adriaenssens W.; Steel R., De Wolfers Dynastie – van

art nouveau tot art deco, Gent, Design museum

Gent, 2006, p. 112 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 324 (No. 32)

42


44

The buckle “Flirt” is the first of the so-called unique jewel creations that Philippe

Wolfers has designed. The drawing for the buckle is dated 05/11/1897, the

execution certainly before 30/04/1898. It forms a group with three other very

early silver art nouveau buckles, “Le Jour et la Nuit”, “Orchidées” and “Lys du

Japon”, of which only the latter remained unique. “Orchidées” was executed in

six copies, “Le Jour et la Nuit” probably in two and with “Flirt” we know of four

examples. Philippe Wolfers sold a copy to Franz de Schmatzer – a very good

client of Wolfers – and he sold a copy through the jeweller Brahmfeld & Gudruf in

Hamburg. The Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels conserve the buckle

that belonged to Renée Feldheim, daughter of Philippe Wolfers (inv. No. Bj124).

The supposition that six examples were executed (according to Marcel Wolfers

research) is not consistent with the archive of Philippe Wolfers.

The present buckle comes from the collection of Philippe Wolfers himself.

Instead of the pearl or stone inset on the shield of the crab, Wolfers patinated the

silver replacement with gold. The entire piece being cast in silver, it is possible to

consider it as the finished prototype, preceding the buckles with a pearl or stone

inset. This could also explain the lack of signature on the piece. This version of the

buckle “Flirt” still retains its original ‘Vieil argent’ or “old silver” patina and the

chasing is of the highest quality.


Philippe Wolfers

Oeillets Shell dish, 1897–1900

Silver

Dimensions: 16,3 × 13,9 cm

Marked: on the edge of the handle with the Wolfers Maker’s mark, and alloy mark for 800/1000

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 6

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 155

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 155

Prague, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, cat. No. 164

Antwerp, Provinciaal Museum Sterckshof –

Zilvercentrum, 15/09–13/12/1998, cat. No. 171

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p.92 (photo without

p. No.)

Belgická Secese 1893–1905 Wallonie-Bruxelles, Prague,

Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, p. 82

Sterckshof Studies 10: Van Belle Epoque tot Art

Nouveau – Belgisch Zilver 1868–1914, Antwerpen,

Sterckhof Zilvercentrum, 1998, p. 273 (with photo)

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent, Design

museum Gent, 2006, p. 9 (with photo)

The shell dishes were executed in different sizes and with a variety of flower

decorations. One such dish with a decoration of orchids is in the permanent

collection of the K.M.K.G. museum in Brussels (inv. Ag. 107), other examples are

in private collections. There are unmarked examples of the shell dishes recorded.

46


Philippe Wolfers

Model for Cygnes!, 1898

Plaster

Dimensions: 10 × 18 cm

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation,

05/11–05/12/1991, cat. No. 118

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 118

Prague, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, cat. No. 168

Bibliography:

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 42 (with photo)

& p. 89

Belgická Secese 1893–1905 Wallonie-Bruxelles, Prague,

Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, p. 83

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 330 (No. 49)

The buckle “Cygnes!” also called “Cygnes et Nénuphars” belongs to the first group

of unique jewels by Philippe Wolfers. Its design is dated on the 29th of September

1898 and it was executed before January 1899. The plaster model has to be dated

therefore between October and December 1898. The buckle was executed in gold

with enamel and turquoise. The plaster model served thus as a “chef modèle”

for the casting mould for the gold buckle. It was imperative that every detail

was worked out in plaster and that the finish in plaster was as fine and perfect

as possible. Otherwise the result in gold would have looked dull. A bad result

because of lack of detail in casting cannot be redressed or masked by a master

chiseller, without completely changing the work itself.

In most cases, these models were made by the artist himself. This plaster

cast is not signed, but it is safe to assume that it was made by Philippe Wolfers

singlehandedly. These casts remained also unique, and were not for reproduction

nor sale. But due to the amount of work needed to finish such a piece and due

to the decorative nature of the small relief, they were often displayed in the

workshop of Philippe Wolfers or in the drawing studio of Wolfers Frères. The fact

that this plaster has a metal loop to affix it to the wall, indicates that has been

displayed.

48


Philippe Wolfers

Model for Cacatoès, 1898–1899

Plaster

Dimensions: 14 × 10 cm

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation,

05/11–05/12/1991, cat. No. 119

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 119

Prague, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, cat. No. 169

Bibliography:

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 44 (with photo)

& p. 89

Belgická Secese 1893–1905 Wallonie-Bruxelles, Prague,

Musée des Arts Décoratifs, 1995, p. 83

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 335 (No. 63)

The hair comb or hair ornament “Cacatoès” is spectacular. The pièce was

executed in enamelled gold and ivory. It was designed on the 12th of November

1898 and it was first publicly exhibited on the 20th of January 1900. The plaster

model must therefore have been executed by Philippe Wolfers at the end of 1898

or in 1899.

The cockatoo is a very unusual bird in Philippe Wolfers’ menagerie. The image

is very exotic, enhanced by the use of ivory. As is the case with the “Cygnes!”

model, this model was also used as the chief model for casting the cockatoo in

gold. Finish and detail in the model were again of primordial importance.

The cockatoo comb was executed in ivory and enamelled gold. It was first

shown on the Pour l’Art exhibition of 1900 and was on display in Hamburg in 1901

at the Brahmfeld & Gutruf jeweller, who sold the jewel at the exhibition. Since

then it has disappeared.

The plaster cast of “Cacatoès” is almost certainly made by Philippe Wolfers

himself. It remained unique. As it has a small metal loop, it must have been on

display in the workshop of Philippe Wolfers or in the drawing studio of Wolfers

Frères.

50


Marcel Wolfers

Lilies footed bowl, 1899

Pewter

Dimensions: 21 × 25 × 17,7 cm

Signed: “M Wolfers / 1–1-99”, near the rim edge of the base

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

To our knowledge this is the first decorative design by Marcel Wolfers that was

executed. The pewter art nouveau bowl, clearly designed under the influence of

father Philippe Wolfers, makes good use of the lily flower and foliage as decorative

ornaments. Considering that Philippe Wolfers’ earliest executed art nouveau

designs are to be dated around 1893–94, it shows the prodigious qualities of the

young artist. It is known that Philippe Wolfers encouraged young Marcel to take

his inspiration from nature, and to make studies of flowers and plants, growing

abundantly in the Wolfers’ park around the parental house – designed by Paul

Hankar – at La Hulpe near Brussels.

This pewter bowl was almost certainly cast in the Wolfers Frères

workshop. It is the only cast known to us today.

52


Philippe Wolfers / Marcel Wolfers

Hair Comb Hibou et Chauve-Souris, 1899

Ivory, opal and carnelian

Dimensions: 10,7 × 9,7 cm

This work is unique.

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Salon de Pour l’Art – 8ième Exposition

annuelle, Musée d’Art Ancien, 20/01–18/02/1900,

cat. No. 20

Paris, Galerie Aublanc, 1900 (no catalogue was edited)

Turin, Prima Esposizione internationale d’arte decorative

moderna, 1902

Antwerp, Exposition d’oeuvres de Philippe Wolfers,

exemplaires uniques exécutés de 1898 à 1903, Salle

Verlat, 18/02–01/03/1903, cat. No. 36 bis.

Brussels, Salon Triennal des Beaux-Arts, Hall du

Cinquantenaire, 05/09–02/11/1903, cat. No. 1792

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 54

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 9

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 9

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 18.1

Turin, s.l., 1994, cat. No. 182 b.

Lleida, Centre Social I Cultural de la Fundació

“La Caixa”, 10/2004–01/2005

Palma de Mallorca, Centre Cultural dela Fundació

“La Caixa”, 01–04/2005

Bibliography:

H. Fierens-Gevaert, La Sezione Belga all’Esposizione

d’Arte Decorativa Moderna in L’Arte Decorativa

Moderna – Rivista di Architettura e di Decorazione

della Casa e della Via, Torino, Camilla E Bertolero,

Anno I, Giugno 1902 N. 6, p. 182 (photo)

Philippe Wolfers: juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 42 (with photo)

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 45 (with photo)

& p. 82

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 40 (with photo)

Torino 1902 – Le Arti Decorative Internationali del

Nuovo Secolo, Torino, Fabbri Editori, 1994, cover

page photo & p. 252–253 (with photo)

Gaspar M., Falk F., Vélez P., El Jardí Fantàstic – Joieria

modernista a les colleccions Europees, Barcelona,

Fundació “La Caixa”, 2004, p. 102 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 339 (No. 75)

54


56

The “Hibou et Chauve-Souris” (Owl and bats) hair comb has an interesting

history. It was designed by Philippe Wolfers on the 22nd of March 1899 and was

executed before the 20th of January 1900, date of its first public showing on the

Pour l’Art Salon in Brussels. Philippe considered it as one of his most important

pieces, showing the comb at the iconic 1902 International Exhibition in Turin

and in important shows in Antwerp and Brussels in 1903. Contemporary pictures

show the sculpted ivory comb, crowned by a large owl sculpted in amethyst and

hoovering over a large diamond set ruby. The diamonds and the large ruby proved

to be fatal for this exceptional symbolist jewel. A substantial number of Philippe

Wolfers’ art nouveau designs which incorporated very expensive gems were

dismantled by the Wolfers firm, when unsold and out of fashion. That way the

firm could recuperate the capital invested in the stones that were used.

The remains of the jewels were generally destroyed but in some rare cases

they were kept by Philippe Wolfers. On inheriting the hair comb, Marcel Wolfers

decided to give it a new life and to sculpt a silhouette of a flying bat in an opal

stone and affix it onto the comb, beneath what can be interpreted as a circular

setting sun in carnelian.

The ‘new’ comb, a posthumous collaboration between father and son, is

convincing and makes the bridge between art nouveau and art deco. This

iconic image was used on the cover of the important exhibition catalogue of the

International Decorative Arts Exhibition of Turin 1902, which was edited by

Fabbri Editori in 1994.


Marcel Wolfers

Water Lilies dish, 1899

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 11 × 24 × 15,5 cm

Signed: “M Wolfers / 11–4-99”, near the edge, at the start of the handle

Marked with the “J. Petermann / Bruxelles” foundry mark at the bottom of the dish

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Bibliography:

Philippe und Marcel Wolfers – Art Nouveau und Art

Déco aus Brüssel, Zürich, Museum Bellerive, 1993,

p. 88

It is hard to believe that this striking art nouveau dish was made when Marcel

Wolfers was only 13 years old. Working in the style of his father, the young

designer made a typical art nouveau object, decorative but with an eye for

functionality: the dish rests on three ‘stems’, so that it remains stable and the

stem of the closed water lily flower serves as a handle.

To our knowledge only two casts of this model are known to exist. One

in patinated bronze, this example, and one in pewter. Both were founded by

J. Petermann, most certainly in the year of creation.

58


Philippe Wolfers

Vase Paon, 1899

Double overlay glass

Dimensions: 26 × 12,5 cm

Signed: “PWolfers”, the signature partly missing

This vase is unique.

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Pour l’Art, Musée d’Art Ancien, 1900,

cat. No. 25

Hamburg, Ausstellung Belgischer Künstler. Constantin

Meunier – Victor Rousseau – Hélène De Rudder –

Isidore De Rudder – Ch. Van der Stappen – Philippe

Wolfers, Hamburgisches Museum für Kunst und

Gewerbe, Nov.-Dec./1901, cat. Nr. 25

Turin, Prima Esposizione internationale d’arte decorative

moderna, 1902

Antwerp, Exposition d’oeuvres de Philippe Wolfers,

exemplaires uniques exécutés de 1898 à 1903, Salle

Verlat, 18/02–01/03/1903, cat. No. 56

Brussels, Salon Triennal des Beaux-Arts, Hall du

Cinquantenaire, 05/09–02/11/1903, cat. No. 1793

Wiesbaden, 1904

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 1

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, 05/11–

05/12/1991, cat. No. 138

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 138

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 76.1

Bibliography:

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 11 (with photo)

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 59 (with photo)

& p. 91

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 343 (No. 87)

The vase “Paon” was designed somewhere in the summer of 1899. The vase was

finished before the 20th of January 1900, when the piece was exhibited, to much

acclaim, at the annual show of the artists collective “Pour l’Art” in Brussels. It

shows the new art nouveau style of Philippe Wolfers. Symmetry and stylised

motives are replacing the early curvilinear naturalist decorations of the earlier

pieces. This move towards stylisation and even the use of an almost abstract basic

form, were also apparent in the silver base of the vase, alas disappeared now.

The vase was executed in the workshops of the Cristalleries de Pantin (Pantin

– Seine) according to the specifications of Philippe Wolfers. According to several

contemporary accounts, the artist then finished the vases by hand in his own

workshop in Brussels, using “dentistry material”. The quality of the chasing is

60


62

of the highest order as one could expect from a master silversmith. Wolfers also

went to great lengths to achieve the right colours and colour combinations of

glass. The group of glass vases designed by Philippe Wolfers belong to the most

interesting creations in art nouveau glass. Due to their experimental nature a lot

of the surviving vases have tension cracks and are flawed. Neither Wolfers nor the

Cristallerie de Pantin had much experience with the technique of overlay glass at

that time. The damage could also be due to the fact that the vases have suffered

from extensive alterations and adjustments afterwards, in Wolfers’ studio. One

has also to take in account the countless exhibitions and therefore transports the

vases had to endure. In the case of the “Paon” vase, it was exhibited six times in

four years, in three different countries.

The vase “Paon” was probably broken before WWII. Since 1979, it has been

exhibited in its current condition. The restauration of the vase is probably the

work of Marcel Wolfers himself, possibly in the 1960’s. Even broken, the “Paon”

vase remains an important witness of the later art nouveau style of Philippe

Wolfers and his prowess as glass designer. The vase would certainly benefit from a

professional restauration with modern techniques.


Philippe Wolfers

Model for hanger Faisans, 1901

Plaster

Dimensions: 15,5 × 5,5 cm

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Bibliography:

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 367 (No. 155 for

the photograph of the finished hanger)

This plaster model, the chief model for the gold structure of the jewel, has to our

knowledge never been exhibited. The “Faisans” hanger was executed in gold,

enamelled gold, diamonds, pearls and rubies. It was finished before the 18th of

January 1902, so the model will almost certainly have been made in 1901.

The pheasant motif reoccurs many times in Philippe Wolfers’ oeuvre.

According to oral information, he modelled these after the specimens that

roamed the lush gardens of his home in La Hulpe. The “Faisans” hanger already

shows the mature symmetrical style of Wolfers. The pheasant was of course a

good animal to make a very colourful jewel. When one looks at the size of the

plaster model, the hanger must have been spectacular.

As is the case with the other plaster models in the exhibition, “Faisans” has a

small metal loop, so it was on display in the workshop of Philippe Wolfers or in

the drawing studio of Wolfers Frères.

64


Philippe Wolfers

Art Nouveau coffee and tea service, ca. 1901–1910

Silver and ivory for the insulators

Dimensions: coffeepot: height 25,4 cm, length 23 cm (from spout to handle)

Marked: on the bottom of each item, maker’s mark three five pointed stars in a triangle and alloy mark for

800/1000

Provenance:

Private collection, Brussels

This service was designed by Philippe Wolfers with the German market in

mind. Unusually abstract in decoration and through a typical vertical design of

the pieces, the set reminds us of Jugendstil designs by Peter Behrens, Richard

Riemerschmid or even Rudolph Rocha. However, it is possible that the Philippe

Wolfers’ design predates these of his German colleagues.

The abstract design of the service is the end of an evolution which started

around 1893. Philippe Wolfers went from an almost realist approach in his first art

nouveau designs towards a more stylised and symmetrical art nouveau between

1900 and 1905. It is difficult to date this set. It is a design that in our opinion

should be dated around 1902–1905, but we lack any concrete evidence to support

this theory.

This model is by any account rare. Apart from a samovar of the same model,

we know of only this service to have come to the market these last years.

66


Philippe Wolfers

La Toilette medallion, 1903

Ivory

Dimensions: diameter 9,8 cm

Signed: with the interlaced monogram“PW” and dated “1903”

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 35

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation,

05/11–05/12/1991, cat. No. 185

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 185

Bibliography:

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 32 (with photo)

Philippe & Marcel Wolfers – De l’Art Nouveau à l’Art

Déco, Bruxelles, K.M.K.G., 1992, p. 95

Adriaenssens W., Philippe Wolfers en de renaissance

van de ivoorsnijkunst in België, Bulletin van de

Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis Deel

71, Brussel, 2000, p. 153 fig. 35.

Adriaenssens W.; Steel R., De Wolfers Dynastie – van

art nouveau tot art deco, Gent, Design museum

Gent, 2006, p. 140 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 374 (No. 178)

The “La Toilette” or “The Grooming” is one of only a few sculptures where we

know Philippe Wolfers to have used photography as a model for the carving. In

fact “La Toilette” and its companion, the medallion “La Parure” were decorative

elements for a jewel casket, also entitled “La Parure”, which had a very lengthy

design period. The first drawings for the casket and the medallions were made in

1899. The finished casket was only shown in 1905 at the Pour l’Art exhibition in

Brussels.

Curiously the “La Toilette” medallion that was mounted into the casket

is dated 1902. The one we have, which comes from the personal collection of

Philippe Wolfers, is dated 1903. Probably the

sculptor was so pleased with the relief that he

decided to have one made as a separate work of art.

As it was customary, the artist first modelled a large

version in plaster of which in this case a bronze was

cast at the same size. The plaster modello was then

reduced in size, by means of a reduction machine.

Philippe Wolfers used the same method for the

execution of the figurative details of his jewels.

To our knowledge, the “La Toilette” medallion in

ivory of 1903 remained an unique piece.

68


Marcel Wolfers

The workshop of Isidore de Rudder, 1904

Pastel on paper

Dimensions: 44 × 32 cm (day measure)

Signed: indistinctly “MWolfers” (in written script) and “04” bottom right

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

In this very early pastel, Marcel Wolfers, then aged 18, shows us the workshop

of his master, Isidore De Rudder (1855–1943). Clearly, Marcel Wolfers was

impressed with De Rudder’s newest creation, the sculpture “figure Tombale”,

which he showed later at the Salon of the Cercle Pour l’Art in 1905.

This work is one of the earliest finished drawings that we know by Marcel

Wolfers.

70


Philippe Wolfers

Aurore, circa 1906

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 38 × 45,5 × 17 cm

Signed: “Ph Wolfers” on the base

Marked: on the side of the base rim with foundry mark “Fon[de]rie N[ationa]le des Bronzes / J. Petermann /

StGilles Bruxelles”

Executed in an edition of only three casts

Provenance:

Wolfers Frères, Brussels

Given by the board of Wolfers to the widow of Philippe

Wolfers, Sophie Willstädter, on the 31st of December

1929

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Philippe Wolfers 1858–1929 Précurseur de l’Art Nouveau

Statuaire. Exposition Rétrospective, Bruxelles,

Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. nr. 56

Bibliography:

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 388 (No. 217A)

“Aurore” or Dawn is the first fragment of the “Le Cycle des Heures” sculpture,

conceived in 1905. In 1907 Philippe Wolfers gave another cast to the Italian art

critic and dealer Vittorio Pica, thanking him for his article on him in Emporium.

A further cast was given by the artist to Régine Van Praag, a close friend of his

mother’s ca.1908.

72


Philippe Wolfers

Plique-à-jour studies, ca. 1905–1910 ( ?)

Plique-à-jour enamel in silver for the irises motif

Dimensions: 10,5 × 7,6 cm

Plique-à-jour enamel in copper for the crab motif

Dimensions : 9,9 × 10,8 cm

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (by descent)

These extremely rare enamel studies give us an insight into how Philippe Wolfers

proceeded in making the complicated plique-à-jour enamel vases. Apparently, the

enamel pieces were made separately from the overall structure and when finished,

were brazed into the main form. Afterwards the whole object was finished by

hand.

These studies are not known

to have a link with existing

objects or with objects that were

photographed by Alexandre, to

fit into the special three part

catalogue Philippe Wolfers

commissioned. It is therefore

likely that Wolfers made or

intended to make other exclusive

objects with plique-à-jour

enamel. We know of at least one

“bonbonnière” with plique-à-jour

and cloisonné enamel, designed

by Philippe Wolfers, which was

on display in the Musée Philippe

Wolfers, that has not been

photographed.

74


Philippe Wolfers

Pendant & broche Emaux Translucides, 1910

Watercolour and ink on paper

Dimensions: 35,5 × 30 cm (sheet)

Signed: “Ph.W. 4.7.10” bottom right

Provenance:

Wolfers Frères

Private collection

Art market, Brussels

Original drawings of jewellery which are signed and dated by Phillipe Wolfers

are almost impossible to find. This drawing, depicting an orchid, shows that

pendants were often designed to double as broches. What is remarkable about

this drawing is the fact that it is dated the 4th of July 1910. As far as we know, this

is one of the last known designs for an art nouveau jewel by the artist. It proves

that even though the art nouveau style was almost out of fashion in 1910, clients

still wanted to have a jewel, designed by Philippe Wolfers himself and in the style

of his greatest creations.

Although this drawing is unique, the jewel itself could have been made

in several copies. The model is not in the “Exemplaires Uniques” repertoire.

The drawing most certainly belonged to the archives of Wolfers Frères, but we

cannot establish how it came onto the art market.

76


78


Exhibition of Marcel Wolfers’ works at the Cercle Artistique et Littéraire (Brussels) in 1912


Marcel Wolfers

Aurora, 1910

Terracotta

Dimensions : 44 × 31 × 28 cm

Signed: “[M] Wolfers / Unique / [terre] cuite” on the left side of the sculpture, partially missing & “M. Wolfers

incised on the bottom rim

This work is unique.

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers

Collection Anthony, Antwerp, bought from the above in

1912 for 300,– frcs.

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(acquired at a sale somewhere in the 1950’s (?))

Exhibited:

Brussels, Exposition Marcel Wolfers, Cercle Artistique

et Littéraire de Bruxelles, 18/03–28/03/1912,

cat. No. 17

Marcel Wolfers referred to the terracotta version of the head “Aurora” as “Etude”

or study in the 1912 catalogue. He probably chose to do so to distinguish it

from the group “Aurora”, which was part of the “Légende Solaire” project, and

which was visible at the same show. The head “Aurora” could indeed have been

conceived initially as a study for the life-size version of the group. Although

there is a reference to a certain “Mr. Maurissen” as sitter for the sculpture,

in the archives of Marcel Wolfers, we found a photographic self-portrait which

dates from the same period and which can be seen as a preparatory study for the

finished sculpture.

80


Marcel Wolfers

Aurora, 1910

Bronze, later patinated with lacquer, on a black “noir de Mazy” base

Dimensions: 74 × 34 × 38 cm

Signed: “M. Wolfers Ep N°2 cire perdue”, on the side of the sculpture

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Woluwe-Saint-Pierre (Brussels), Exposition Marcel

Wolfers, Atelier 28, Av. Verte, 18/03/1912–28/03/1912,

cat. No. 19 (possibly this example ?)

Brussels, Marcel Wolfers sculpteur-laqueur, Galerie Nos

Peintres, 26/11–09/12/1932, cat. No. 6

Ghent, Ville de Gand Salon de 1933, Palais des Fêtes,

12/08–08/10/1933, cat. No. 847

Brussels, Marcel Wolfers, sculpteur-laqueur, Galerie

L’Ecuyer, 22/05–13/06/1970, cat. No. 60

As with the terracotta version, the bronze head “Aurora” got the suffix “Etude” in

the 1912 catalogue. Considered by Marcel Wolfers as a major work – he put the

bronze head on the cover of the catalogue – the mention “study” has to be seen as

a way to differ it from the “Aurora” group.

The present “Aurora” is the second cast out of two, both cast in the lostwax

technique. The first cast was sold to Max Wolfers in 1912 for 1500,- frcs.

The second cast remained with Marcel Wolfers. Between ca. 1928 and 1932,

Marcel Wolfers decided to patinate the bronze with lacquer. The result is striking:

the dark red colour of the lacquer endows the bronze with a dramatic radiance.

Of all lacquered bronzes by Marcel, this is perhaps his finest realisation. Marcel

Wolfers himself regarded the piece as one of his most important sculptures, and

priced it for his 1932 retrospective in Brussels at 8000,- frcs.

82


Marcel Wolfers

Bilitis, 1911

Terracotta with engobe on a marble base

Dimensions: 49 × 18,2 × 20,2 cm

Signed: “Marc Wolfers/1911 / terre cuite / N°1”, on the side of the sculpture

This work is unique.

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers

Albert Wolfers, bought from the above in 1911 for

1000,- frcs.

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(acquired from the estate of the above around 1934

(?))

Exhibited:

Brussels, Exposition Marcel Wolfers, Cercle Artistique

et Littéraire de Bruxelles, 18/03–28/03/1912,

cat. No. 16

Brussels, Marcel Wolfers. Sculpteur-Laqueur, Galerie

L’Ecuyer, 22/05–13/06/1970, cat. No. 61

It is not sure whether Marcel Wolfers referred to “Les Chansons de Bilitis”,

a collection of poetry by Pierre Louÿs published in 1894 or to Claude Debussy’s

“Three songs of Bilitis”, inspired by the aforementioned and published in 1897.

In any case, the story of a fictional and mythical Greek poet must have appealed

to Marcel, always prone to draw upon mythology, philosophy and poetry as

a basis for the subjects of his work. But as the Louÿs poems celebrate lesbian

eroticism, the Bilitis bust shows a very appolonian portrait of a young woman.

The technical use of engobe as a means to create a polychrome sculpture,

reminds us of the Tanagra terracotta figurines. Also, in the unique bronze version

of the bust, the opening up of the eyes is similar to the excavated Greek bronze

sculptures, which often lacked the enamel lifelike eyes that were set into the

bronze eye sockets. The “Bilitis” name is therefore in our opinion rather to be

seen as a reference to Greek sculpture, Marcel Wolfers using this “new” name as

opposed to the older established names (Sappho, etc.) which are burdened with a

large art historical past.

By repute, Marcel Wolfers used a former lover of his to sit for the bust.

84


Marcel Wolfers

Bilitis, 1911–1913

White carrara marble

Dimensions: 38,5 × 20 × 20 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers”, on the side of the sculpture

With justification “2/2” near the edge

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Tournai, Cercle Artistique de Tournai. 32me Exposition,

1921 cat. No. 529

Louvain, Exposition des oeuvres de Anto Carte et

M. Wolfers, Louvain, Modern Studio,

19/02–28/02/1928, cat. No. 2.

Marcel Wolfers felt at ease working in the delicate white carrara marble.

He always used the material to his advantage, using the translucent qualities of

the stone to embed his sculptures with an almost symbolist aura. The marble

version of “Bilitis” was executed in two copies, two years after the terracotta.

One version was sold in 1913 to a collector for 2000,- frcs, the second version was

kept by the sculptor.

86


Philippe Wolfers

Automne or Vendanges, 1913

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 66 × 33 × 20 cm

Signed: “Ph Wolfers 1913” on the base

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. nr. 57

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 71

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Philippe Wolfers 1858–1929 Précurseur de l’Art Nouveau

Statuaire. Exposition Rétrospective, Bruxelles,

Galerie L’Ecuyer, 1972, s.p.

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979,

p. 50 (with photo)

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent, Design

museum Gent, 2006, p. 21 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 401 (No. 252)

“Automne” or “Vendanges” is one of the most elegant and characteristic bronzes

of the early Wolfers’ sculptures. The interaction between the two figures, one

sitting and one standing, is very convincing and gives the scene a sort of intimacy.

The composition has a very sensual rhythm and although the base of the

sculpture is fairly large, the care for detail and the exquisite execution of the floral

decoration makes it almost disappear from the overall composition.

“Vendanges” or “Automne” was executed twice in marble. Philippe Wolfers

was so pleased with this composition, that he made a second, unique version of

the group in 1916. Of the bronze version of the sculpture, four casts were made.

One cast belonged to the brother of Philippe, Robert Wolfers. This specific cast

was kept by Philippe Wolfers for his own collection.

88


Marcel Wolfers

Destruere, 1913

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 86 × 47 × 33 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers/1913”, on the short side of the base

Marked: Foundry mark “Fonderie Nat[ionale] des bronze / Anc[ien]ne Firme J. Petermann / St Gilles Bruxelles”,

on the long back side of the base

This work is unique.

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels, Exposition de La Libre Esthétique, Musée des

Beaux-Arts, 07/03–13/04/1914, cat. No. 223

Brussels, VIe Salon de Printemps, Cercle Artistique,

07/06–20/07/1919, cat. No. 204

Paris, Salon d’Automne, Grand Palais du Champs-

Elysées, 01/10–10/12/1919, cat. No. 1948.

Liège, 1920

Tournai, 1920

Barcelona, Exposition d’œuvres d’Artistes belges,

Municipalité de Barcelone, 1921, cat. No. 416

Leuven, Exposition Anto Carte et Marcel Wolfers,

Modern Studio, 1928

The “Destruere” sculpture, or “Le couple”, was supposed to form a group with

“Possidere”, “Dominari” and “Creare”, called “Les Chants d’Ivresse”, also inspired

by the work of Nietzsche. The maquette was shown along with the “Légende

Solaire” project at the Marcel Wolfers exhibition in Brussels in 1912. Wolfers soon

decided to abandon the “Chants d’Ivresse” project and to develop each sculpture

as an independent work of art.

Marcel Wolfers decided to cast the “Destruere” group in bronze. In 1914

he made a monumental clay version of the sculpture, which remained in his

workshop during the war years. When he came back from the war, he found that

the large sculpture had been destroyed by frost in the winter of 1917. Around

1922, Marcel Wolfers asked master potter Roger Guérin to make three salt glazed

stoneware copies of “Destruere”. The bronze version of “Destruere” remained

unique. Although the sculpture was included in many selling exhibitions, Marcel

Wolfers never wanted to part with this bronze.

90


Wolfers Frères

Commemorative serving tray, 1918

Silver

Dimensions: diameter 35 cm

Marked: on the side near the edge the complete set of “Grands Poinçons” of Wolfers Frères: “WF” in written

interlaced script, lion rampant faced to the left, three five-pointed stars in a triangular form consisting of three

interlocking circles, alloy mark for 800/1000 and fantastic animal faced to the right

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (by descent)

A serving tray commemorating WWI, but which leaves us without an answer

for which occasion it was made. It has to have had a special meaning to Marcel

Wolfers as he kept the tray in his collection.

Typical of the neo Louis XVIth style that was popular with Wolfers Frères in

the 1910’s, the “Godrons” pattern predicts the arrival of the art deco style. The use

of the Grands Poinçons marks could indicate that this piece was made for a public

occasion.

92


Philippe Wolfers

Psyche, 1919

Patinated bronze on a marble base

Dimensions: 52 × 33 × 26 cm (with base)

Signed: “Ph Wolfers” on the back of the shoulder

This sculpture is unique.

Provenance:

Private Collection, Brussels

Exhibited:

Barcelona, Exposition d’oeuvres d’artistes belges,

Municipalité, 1921, cat. No. 418

Bibliography:

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 410 (No. 277)

“Psyché” was executed in 1919. Two versions were carved in marble. One of these

versions was given to the mother of the sitter, Fanny Wolfers (1864–1943), sister

to Philippe Wolfers. Her daughter Lucie Dreyfus-Chambrelent (1903–1981) was

the inspiration for this bust. Lucie was 16 years old at the time, and wore her hair

in a “Catogan” or bow, very fashionable at that time. The titel “Psyché” probably

refers to the beauty of the youngster. The other marble version remained at

Wolfers Frères and was part of the Musée Philippe Wolfers.

There was also a bronze version, mounted on a marble base, which remained

unique. As is the case with the marble version, “Psyché” does not look straight

to the viewer. In the case of the bronze version, this portrayal of movement is

reinforced through the fact that Philippe Wolfers put the bust on a specially

designed marble base, but took care to seemingly put it almost sideways on the

marble base. The base itself had an architectural quality and is composed of two

different marbles, which enhances the sumptuousness of the base. Apart from its

exhibition in Barcelona in 1921, all trace of this sculpture was lost. It is the first

time, since 1921, that this bust is displayed publicly.

94


Marcel Wolfers

Isis, 1919–1920

Patinated oak

Dimensions: 39,5 × 25,5 × 28 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers”, on the side of the sculpture

Marked: with a brand-mark symbol of St-Georges

This work is unique.

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers

Hottat Collection, Brussels (acquired from the above

in 1921 in Paris for 3000,- frcs)

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(probably acquired on the sale of the Hottat

collection in May 1954)

Exhibited:

Paris, Salon d’Automne: Les Ymagiers Belges,

01/11–20/12/1921, cat. No. 2875

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Adriaenssens W.; Steel R., De Wolfers Dynastie –

van art nouveau tot art deco, Gent, Design museum

Gent, 2006, p. 219 (with photo)

The “Isis” bust was originally conceived in 1912. The bust was modelled after

Yvonne Wolfers (1896–1981), daughter of Mathilde Wolfers, sister of Philippe

Wolfers. The bust was a fairly realist and somewhat static portrait of Yvonne, with

a reference to the goddess Isis, on a high marble pedestal. In 1919 Marcel Wolfers

decided to rework the bust. He tilted the head of the sitter slightly backwards,

giving movement to the composition and accentuating the scarab decorated hair

ornament. By starting the composition just at the height of the neck (the marble

version showing the shoulders), the composition acquired better proportions.

Regarding the early work of Marcel, “Isis” along with “Bilitis” are often cited as

his most sensuous sculptures. Georges Verdavaine wrote in Le Home magazine:

“Isis est devant nous. Regardez la pureté de son front, la sérénité de ses traits, la

loyauté de son regard, la promesse de ses lèvres, où la volupté met une caresse en

un sourire discret. Discrétion qui n’exclut ni la fierté, ni l’orgueil, ni la noblesse.

Les cheveux s’agitent et flottent. Et la déesse apparaît, dans le charme de la

séduction, comme la fille même d’une civilisation qui éclairera le monde. Isis !”

The oak version was sculpted out of an

ancient beam, salvaged from a construction

site. It was first presented at the Salon

d’Automne in Paris in 1921, where it

was acquired by the very important and

influential collector Albert Hottat from

Brussels. When it was sold in 1954, in the

sale of the collection of Hottat, Marcel

Wolfers could not resist buying it back for his

own collection.

96


Marcel Wolfers

La Légende Solaire or Le Jour et les Crépuscules, 1912

The groups Nox, Crepusculum and Aurora

Salt glazed stoneware, executed by the firm of Roger Guérin, Bouffioulx

1a. Nox

Dimensions: 67,5 × 46,5 × 24 cm

Signed: “MW 1920” at the side of the sculpture

“Marcel W 1912” at the other side of the sculpture

3a. Aurora

Dimensions: 72 × 52 × 23 cm

Signed: “Exp I / Guerin” on the base

2a. Crepusculum

Dimensions: 77,5 × 53,5 × 24 cm

Signed: “Marc. Wolfers” on top of the base

“Exp. II R. Guérin / Potier” on top of the base

“MWolf.” on the other side of the base

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels, le Clockarium, 28/09/2007–28/01/2008

Bibliography:

Adriaenssens W., Marcel Wolfers et Roger Guérin in

Au gré du gré – de l’art nouveau à l’art déco Edgard

Aubry & Roger Guérin, Bruxelles, le Clockarium, 2007,

p. 45–51 & 77 (with photo)

“Nox”, “Crepusculum” and “Aurora” were part of a large project of monumental

sculptures that Marcel Wolfers envisaged as a decoration for a public garden.

The project originally included a fourth group, “Lux”, which was later destroyed,

possibly by Marcel Wolfers himself. He named the project “La Légende Solaire”

or “Le Jour et les Crépuscules”, and the subjects were inspired by “Also Sprach

Zarathustra” by Friederich Nietzsche. When Wolfers exhibited the groups

together at the Brussels Cercle Artistique in 1912 (in the same year they were

shown, along with “Possidere” at the Venice Biennale), the catalogue mentioned

with each group, the lines by Nietzsche which had inspired the sculptor:

“Nox” — “Verily, a goal had Zarathustra; he threw his ball. Now be ye friends

the heirs of my goal; to you throw I the golden ball. Best of all, do I see you,

my friends, throw the golden ball!”

“Crepusculum” — “Not perhaps ye yourselves, my brethren! But into fathers

and forefathers of the Superman could ye transform yourselves: and let

that be your best creating!”

“Aurora” — “But in the loneliest wilderness happeneth the second

metamorphosis: here the spirit becometh a lion; freedom will it capture,

and lordship in its own wilderness.”

(translations by Thomas Common (1850–1919))

98


2a


1a

The fact that Marcel Wolfers was inspired by Nietzsche must not come as a

surprise. Around 1910 he had frequent contacts with painter Emile Fabry

(who based his Zarathustra portrait on the young Marcel Wolfers) and the book

was probably well read in the Brussels Masonic milieu which Marcel attended.

The original groups were executed in plaster. Only “Crepusculum”, also called

“La Famille” was later executed in marble and had a reduction in wood. In 1920

Marcel Wolfers contacted the potter Roger Guérin from Bouffioulx, a potters’

village which had an ancient stone ware tradition going back to the Middle

Ages. Marcel ordered to make stone ware versions of “Nox”, “Crepusculum” and

“Aurora”. Both “Nox” and “Aurora” were executed in two copies, “Crepusculum”

was made in three copies. The execution of such large pieces in salt glazed

stoneware proved very difficult for the Guérin pottery. All surviving casts have

several cracks and faults due to the firing and cooling of the pieces. Although

Marcel Wolfers did not pursue a further collaboration with the Guérin firm, he

liked the stoneware sculptures immensely, putting them on display in his garden.

It is a credit to the quality of the work of master potter Roger Guérin that they

survived the harsh Belgian winters without deterioration.

100


3a


Preliminary studies for the “Légende Solaire”

While researching the collection of Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci, we

discovered thanks to the help of the family, a collection of terracotta bozetti

or studies for the “Légende Solaire” project. These sketches have never been

exhibited and are executed in terracotta or glazed terracotta. Some have been

glazed by Roger Guérin and executed in two copies in 1921. Others are unique.

One of the most interesting groups is the study for “Lux”, the fourth group of

the “Légende Solaire” that was destroyed. The study is the only remnant of this

sculptural group.

1b. Nox

Earthenware with a green glaze

Dimensions: 17 × 12,5 × 7 cm

Titled “Nox” at the side

2b. Crepusculum, 1910

Terracotta

Dimensions: 22 × 15 × 5,5 cm

Inscription on the side “MW / 25 Aout / 1910”

and titled “Crepusculum”

2c. Study for Crepusculum (?), 1910

Dimensions: 20 × 7 × 7,5 cm

Gold signature plaque imbedded into the clay

“Marcel / Wolfers / Piece /Unique”

Inscription on the side “MW / 1910 / illegible”

3b. Aurora

Earthenware with a dark brown glaze

Dimensions: 17,5 × 16 × 6,5 cm

Incised inscription at the side (illegible) and titled

“Aurea” on the front

3c. Study for the left figure of Aurora, 1910

Terracotta

Dimensions: 17 × 10 × 5,5 cm

Incised inscription on the back “VI / Six-pointed star /

1910 / MW”

4a. “Lux” or “Diez”

Terracotta (restored by the artist)

Dimensions: 23 × 13 × 7 cm

Incised inscription on the back “1910 / six-point star

with number I / Illegible / × II / hammer”

Titled “Diez” on the front

2c

4a

102


1b

2b

3c

3b


Marcel Wolfers

Possidere, 1920

Salt glazed stone ware

Dimensions: 86 × 43 × 30 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers” and illegible

Marked: “R. Guerin / M[aître] Potier” on the side of the base

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels, Clockarium, 28/09/2007–28/01/2008

Bibliography:

Adriaenssens W., Marcel Wolfers et Roger Guérin in

Au gré du gré – de l’art nouveau à l’art déco – Edgard

Aubry & Roger Guérin, Bruxelles, le Clockarium, 2007,

p. 45–51 & 77 (with photo)

Marcel Wolfers started to work on “Possidere” in 1909. Actually “Possidere”” was

a complete reworking of his “Dominari” group, his submission to the Godecharles

Prize contest of 1907. The finished plaster version was shown for the first time

in 1910 at the Brussels Salon International des Beaux-Arts (coinciding with the

World Fair) and was afterwards exhibited in Munich, Paris and in 1912 at the

Venice Biennale.

In 1919 Marcel Wolfers sculpted a monumental version in blue limestone for

the Wolfers properties in La Hulpe where it was installed. It exists to this day,

but was moved a couple of years ago to a roundabout near the village station. It

remains one of the most impressive large scale sculptures of its time.

Around 1912–1913, Marcel Wolfers made a small version, on scale 1/3rd of the

original, in three different materials. The bronze, unique, was sold to the Museum

of Ixelles in 1922. Two other versions, on the same scale, were executed by the

workshop of Roger Guérin of Bouffioulx in salt glazed stoneware. One version

was sold to a collector in 1933 for 5000,- frcs., the other version was kept by

Marcel Wolfers for his own collection. According to the family of the artist, a fact

corroborated by vintage photographs, the statue sat outdoors in the garden of the

Vieusart residence of Marcel and Clairette since WWII.

104


Marcel Wolfers

Preliminary study for Possidere

Terracotta (restored)

Dimensions: 22 × 23 × 8,5 cm

With the small studies for the “Légende Solaire” project we found an early

bozetto for “Possidere”, probably dating from around 1909–1910. The small scale

study was made in clay and left to dry. It was probably fired at a later date.

Due to the firing, the sculpture has multiple cracks and has a large part glued to

the main body.

It is amazing how the artist knows to convey the sense of power and

movement in such a small sketch.

106


Marcel Wolfers next to the monumental version of Possidere,

in front of the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1912


Marcel Wolfers

Dolly, 1920

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 44 × 41 cm

Signed with the monogram “MW” and “1920”, bottom left

Provenance: Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

This is the portrait of a certain of Dolly “Levezay” (sic Marcel Wolfers) of whom

we could not find any information. We do not know for which occasion the plaque,

obviously a commission, was made. The bronze plaque was later reduced and

converted into a medal of 8,5 cm high. This medal was one sided. Marcel Wolfers

also executed one ivory version of the reduced plaque.

108


Marcel Wolfers

Portrait of the painter Willem Paerels, 1920

Patinated plaster on a wooden base

Dimensions: 49 × 23 × 29 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers 1920”, at the neck

Provenance: Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Marcel Wolfers was seldom inclined to make a portrait head or a bust. He only

wanted to make a portrait if he felt a real connection with his sitter. Hence the

very original and personal outcome of his portraits. The head of Willem Paerels

(1878–1962) is to be seen as a tribute from Marcel to a great friend. Executed

in 1920, it shows the painter in the year he lost his beloved wife, and the year he

decided to leave fauvism behind in favour of a more expressionist approach.

Apart from the original plaster which was patinated by the artist, only two

casts in bronze (lost-wax) were made. One was bought by the Belgian State in 1921

and was bequeathed to the Museum of Fine Arts in Mechelen, the other – slightly

later – cast was given by Marcel Wolfers to Willem Paerels in 1932.

When reviewing the portrait for the ‘La Nervie’ magazine in 1924, Henri

Lavachery wrote: “ […] Il y a dans ce buste une vie singulière, car il a gardé le

charme primesautier de l’esquisse d’argile. […] Les surfaces maîtresses ont une

simplicité et une force du premier jet. l’Etat fut bien inspiré lorsqu’il acheta ce

buste. Il est parmi les plus beaux de la statuaire belge, et l’un des plus vibrants

d’inspiration créatrice.”

110


Willem Paerels

Portrait of Marcel Wolfers

Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 100 × 80 cm

Signed: “Paerels”, bottom right

In contrast to the early portraits that we have on display in the exhibition,

this portrait of Marcel Wolfers by Paerels shows him as an older man. It was

probably painted the at the end of the 1930’s or in the 1940’s, when Marcel was

middle aged. It is a proof of the lifelong friendship between the two artists. It

is perhaps the only portrait of Marcel Wolfers showing him as an artist with a

whole career behind him, but who now is interested in deepening his art. No more

spectacular art in the public eye, but art as a means to come to reflection, even

meditation about oneself and the surrounding world. The portrait of Paerels

also shows a man, although bestowed with public functions and belonging to the

Brussels’ establishment, who loves the simple, honest life of the countryside and

leads a life devoid of pomp and circumstance when he receives his friends at his

home in Vieusart.

112


Marcel Wolfers

La Périchole, 1920

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 60 × 32 × 17 cm

Signed: “M Wolfers. / cire perdue / 1/3 / 1920”, at the back, near the edge of the sculpture

Marked: double foundry mark of Wolfers Frères “WF” interlaced and “Lion Rampant” at the back, near the edge of

the sculpture

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Paris, Salon d’Automne: Les Ymagiers Belges, 01/11–

20/12/1921, cat. No. 2873

Tournai, 33me Exposition Cercle Artistique de Tournai,

10/09–03/10/1922, cat. No. 358

Leuven, Exposition Anto Carte et Marcel Wolfers, Salle

Fonteyn, 19/10–28/10/1924, cat. No. 18

Stockholm, Äldre och Nyare Belgisk Konst [Exposition

d’œuvres d’artistes belges à Stockholm], Liljevalchs

Konsthall, 9/09–28/09/1927, cat. No. 504

Brussels, Blancs et Noirs, Galerie Javal et Bourdeaux,

14/12–31/12/1929, cat. No. 46

The title of this bust probably refers to the Jacques Offenbach opera of the same

name. Indeed we see the depiction of “La Périchole”, a fair maiden, in poor dress

but with an exotic reference (the hair comb), lover of Piquillo the poor Peruvian

street singer. However the bust conceals a secret. Conceived in the period when

Marcel Wolfers was courting Clairette Petrucci (they married in 1923), it is

actually a stylised portrait of his fiancee. One recognises her typical profile and

slightly daunting look. Henry Lavachery (who knew both Marcel and Clairette

very well) wrote in 1924: “Ce buste d’une grâce androgyne, fournit aux songes

un élément sans cesse renaissant. Le visage amaigri d’adolescent, plein d’une

coquetterie hautaine, les épaules fines, les seins menus et droits, tout y est d’une

réalité transcendantale qui pénètre de mystère sa beauté.”

Cast in the lost-wax technique by the firm of Wolfers Frères, only two casts

(out of three projected) were made. Marcel sold one cast to a collector in 1932 for

4500,- frcs, this cast remained with him and his wife.

114


Marcel Wolfers

La Périchole, 1923

White crackle glazed ceramic

Dimensions: 59,5 × 32 × 18 cm

Signed: “M Wolfers 1920”, at the back of the sculpture near the base

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels, Cercle Artistique et Littéraire de

Bruxelles. Exposition Anto Carte, Jean Hendrickx,

Marcel Wolfers, 25/02–04/03/1923, cat. No. 131

Wavre, Histoire Locale. Sculpture. Peinture. Exposition,

Salle Marchal, 02/04–09/04/1949.

As is the case with some other pre-WWII sculptures, Marcel Wolfers had the

bronze executed in ceramic. Due to both nature and subject of the bust, he chose

not to work with the Guérin Pottery, as its salt glazed stoneware would diminish

the grace and subtle modelé of the sculpture. Instead Marcel turned to the

Brussels firm of Céramique de Bruxelles, which executed statuettes and objets

d’art in white ceramic, primarily in art deco style. The glaze is slightly crackled

and although reminiscent of the art deco production of white crackled glazed

figurines, this bust clearly stands its ground as an autonomous work of art.

Executed in 1923 and another in 1926, it seems that only two casts were made

with in white crackled ceramics. A third bisquit fired cast, that was subsequently

covered with gold leaves by the artist, surfaced onto the Brussels art market

around 1980.

116


Marcel Wolfers

Head of Holocausta, 1921

Plaster on a marble base

Dimensions: 37 × 22 × 29 cm

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

It is unclear whether this head is a study for the monumental plaster version

of “Holocausta” shown on the Salon d’Automne of 1921, or whether it is the only

element that Marcel Wolfers decided to keep when he dismantled the sculpture.

The sculptor kept the head on display in his workshop.

The Les Ymagiers Belges exhibition at the Salon d’Automne (Paris) in 1921

118


Marcel Wolfers

Le Premier Cahier du Marchand d’Images, 1921

Printed in an edition of 210 copies, on the presses of F. Dorel in Paris, all numbered and signed by the author

We present the numbers 37/210 and 155/210 of the first and only edition.

Dimensions: 16,5 × 32 cm

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Marcel Wolfers volunteered to serve in the Belgian army. The war would change

him as a man and as an artist. Impressed by its atrocities and trying to find a

relevance for art in this world, he decided to make a book, in which he would write

on the war and on art and would rethink his function as an artist.

Marcel Wolfers saw himself now as an “image maker” or “Imagier”, someone

who has to make the beauty of life visible in art. The artist becomes a story teller

for those left behind, victims and survivors of the war and has the task to console

them by leading the way to genuine beauty through art. The texts and drawings

were made between 1915 and 1917 and were published in 1921. Although it is one

of the most personal artist’s books on WWI, it has remained fairly unknown to the

general public.

120


Marcel Wolfers / Anto Carte

Le Deuxième Cahier du Marchand d’Images, 1922

Printed in an edition of 275 copies, on the presses of F. Dorel in Paris, all numbered and signed by both authors

We present the numbers 92/275 and 196/210 of the first and only edition.

Dimensions: 32,5 × 25 cm

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

The second book from the “Edition du Roseau Vert”, the publishing house of

Marcel Wolfers, was called “Ecrits de Novembre”. Contrary to his original plan

to make this second book alone, he decided to collaborate with Anto Carte, who

committed himself to illustrating the texts written by Marcel Wolfers.

This second “Cahier du Marchand d’Images” is the most beautiful and

accomplished book of the series. From the outset it encountered great success,

partly thanks to the publicity efforts Marcel made. He sent the book to leading

journalists and artists. He even sent one as a gift to the Belgian Queen. The book

was distributed in Brussels by Marcel Wolfers, but leading booksellers such as

De Nobele, Simonson and the “Musée du Livre” sold it as well. The book was

also distributed through the distinguished shop of Dominique in Paris, to great

success.

The double page and single page illustrations of Anto Carte are true works of

art. Sometimes they feature Marcel Wolfers: in the illustration on page 23, we

see an impoverished artist (“un imagier”) trying to sell a sculpture to passers-by.

The sculpture in his hand is an nude version of “Holocausta”. One is tempted to

interpret the depiction of the lovers on page 43, as Marcel and Clairette, who were

courting at that time.

As is the case in the first “Cahier”, the form and illustrations and arguably also

the poetic language, are influenced by Japanese and Chinese art and literature.

The subject matter is still very much influenced by Marcel Wolfers’ impressions

of the war.

122


124


Philippe Wolfers

Dancer with a garland of flowers, ca. 1921 (?)

Patinated bronze, on a red marble base

Dimensions: 26,5 × 16 × 8,5 cm (with base)

Signed with the interlaced monogram“PW”

Marks: Double foundry mark of Wolfers Frères on the back of the base “WF” interlaced and “Lion rampant”

Wolfers Frères “cire perdue mark”

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (by descent)

An exact identification of this sculpture remains difficult. We do not have any

annotated documents or contemporary photographs to identify the sculpture.

Even Marcel Wolfers, when asked to identify the model, was somewhat at loss.

He concluded that it was a variant of “La Guirlande”, also made in 1921 in an

edition of three. Although this is a possibility, at this point we cannot be certain

that his assumption is correct.

“Dancer with a garland” is an extremely rare sculpture. Only two versions

are known today, this one included. This specific sculpture belonged to Marcel

Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci. It is the first time that this cast is shown to the

public.

126


Philippe Wolfers

Bronze hand mouldings from the Wolfers family

Frans, 1910

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 19 × 13 × 5,6 cm

Signed: interlaced monogram “PW / cire perdue” and dated “1910”

This moulding, executed in bronze and signed by Philippe Wolfers, was taken

from the hand of a certain Frans. After consulting the Wolfers family tree, the

only likely candidate seems to be Franz Wolff (1907–2002), grandson of Emma

Wolfers (1861–1930), sister of Philippe. Although his name is written with a ‘z’ at

the end, his date of birth corresponds with the size of the hand.

Yves, Novembre 1926

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 16 × 13,5 × 6 cm

Signed: interlaced monogram “PW” and dated “Nov. 26”

Oval foundry mark “Montagutelli Bruxelles cire perdue” on the inside

This moulding, executed in bronze and signed by Philippe Wolfers, was taken

from the hand of Yves Goldschmidt (1922–1988), the only child of the youngest

daughter of Philippe, Nelly Wolfers (1891–1923).

Roger, janvier 1927

Patinated bronze

Dimensions : 19 × 15,5 × 7,5 cm

Signed: interlaced monogram “PW” and dated “Janvier 1927”

This moulding, executed in bronze and signed by Philippe Wolfers, was taken from the hand of Roger Feldheim

(1920-?), son of Renée Wolfers (1887–1960), the elder daughter of Philippe Wolfers.

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (by descent)

The practice of moulding children’s hands is still very much alive today.

It is however very unusual to have the mouldings executed in bronze according to

the lost wax method, which was and is very expensive. It is not known how many

casts Philippe Wolfers ordered from each hand, but it is possible that these casts

are unique.

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View of the Gioconda table at the Paris Exhibition of 1925


Philippe Wolfers

Gioconda oval serving dish, ca. 1925

Silver

Dimensions: 30,2 × 37,8 cm

Marks: on the bottom “WF” in written interlaced script, three five-pointed stars in a triangular form consisting of

three interlocking circles, alloy mark for 800/1000

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation,

05/11–05/12/1991, cat. No. 164

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 164

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 104.2.c

Antwerp (Deurne), Art-Deco zilver Antwerpen-Brussel-

Gent, Provinciaal Museum Sterckshof- Zilvercentrum,

27/02–27/05/1996, cat. No. B99d

This silver serving tray is the only item of the “Gioconda” silver tableware we

know of, bearing the personal monogram of Philippe Wolfers, engraved to it.

The monogram is identical (albeit with a slight difference due to the medium and

place of application) to the monogram we find on the bottom of the creamware

tableware in the “Gioconda” pattern. The same art deco typography is used for

the Marcel Wolfers monogram on the cutlery which is now in the collection of the

Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels. It is certain that Philippe Wolfers

was responsible for the design of the monograms.

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Philippe Wolfers

Gioconda tableware, ca. 1925

Creamware

Dimensions: a. salad bowl: height: 11,5 cm, diam. 27 cm

b. oval dish: 52 × 42 cm

c. oval dish: 47,5 × 38 cm

d. oval dish: 42, 5 × 34 cm

e. 3 round dishes: diam. 32,5 cm

f. 2 round dishes: diam. 38 cm

g. 6 moka cups and saucers: height cups 5 cm, diam. saucers 12 cm

Marks: each item printed with “Gioconda / PW / Deposé / Keramis / Made in Belgium” on the bottom

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 104.3a (a.; e.)

Lissabon, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation,

05/11–05/12/1991, cat. No. 169 (a.; e.)

Brussels, Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en

Geschiedenis, 15/02–15/04/1992, cat. No. 169 (a.; e.)

The “Gioconda” tableware was one of the most successful items in the “Gioconda”

pattern, designed by Philippe Wolfers for the Paris exhibition of 1925. Although

Wolfers initially wanted to execute the tableware in porcelain and with colour

(the design for a porcelain cup and saucer are dated the 30th of December 1924)

he changed his mind. By May 1925 he commissioned the renowned Belgian

firm of Boch Frères from La Louvière with the production of the tableware.

The tableware was added to their “Keramis” design range. Due to the fact that

it was executed in creamware, the prices were reasonable, as opposed to the

silverware and crystal in the same pattern, which were very expensive.

Wolfer Frères sold the tableware in their main shop in Brussels and still

had a considerable stock of it in 1952. A contemporary photograph showing

the preparations of a celebration of the workers of the firm, shows they used

“Gioconda” plates for the feast. The bestselling items were the coffee and tea

cups, followed by the dishes. Large items such as large trays and bowls were less

in demand as these were more expensive. The only drawback the creamware

tableware had, was its proneness to crackle of the glaze and chips. A lot of what

was produced did not survive everyday use.

The trays, cups and the bowl on show here, were part of the personal collection

of Philippe Wolfers and were used by the Wolfers family.

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Philippe Wolfers

Gioconda coffee or tea table, ca. 1925

Mahogany, ivory

Dimensions: 59 × 85 × 74,5 cm

Provenance:

A distinguished private collection, Belgium

The “Gioconda” ensemble, specially designed by Philippe Wolfers for the

International Exhibition in Paris of 1925, is considered one of the most important

ensembles of the art deco period. At the time, it earned Philippe Wolfers the

“Grand Prix” with a maximum of 20 out of 20 points.

Although the complete ensemble, displayed at the exhibition, was a unique

commission, most items were designed to be produced and sold through the

shops of Wolfers Frères. The “Gioconda” silverware was of course edited and sold

through Wolfers, but even the “Gioconda” ceramics, made by Boch, were sold

through them. Possibly one could also order the Val Saint-Lambert drinking glass

in cut crystal through Wolfers Frères, although very few were sold, probably due

to their price.

The furniture seems the have been executed only once, with exception of the

“Gioconda” tea table. We know for a fact that Wolfers Frères sold the tea table

through their shops. On the back of a commercial photograph by Wolfers Frères,

showing a tea table with the “Gioconda” coffee and tea service on top, we found a

list of selling prices for each item. These photographs were sent to the different

shops where Wolfer Frères sold their goods. A “Gioconda” tea table was available

at a price of 6.000,- frcs., which was a considerable sum of money at the end of

the 1920’s. The complete coffee and tea service with tray cost 22.770,- frcs. If you

wanted a samovar, another 11.700,- frcs was needed.

The tea table was designed by Philippe Wolfers on the 21st of May 1924.

Apart from the only variant (prototype?) we know with twelve legs, the definite

tea table was designed with four legs, and had three levels, of which the smaller

top had been designed to hold the tray of the “Gioconda” coffee and tea set.

The top had about the same dimensions as the tray. The first level was designed

to hold the small dessert plates, and the second level was designed to hold the

tea or coffee cups.

To this day we know of only two other surviving “Gioconda” tea tables.

One is the aforementioned prototype with 12 legs and the other table has

been sold before the 1980’s through the Anthony shop in Antwerp (a former

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Wolfers’ branch). The table we have on offer is a third example, but currently

the only one that is available on the market.

As is the case with the two other existing tea tables, this table no longer has

its small top level to support the “Gioconda” tea and coffee service. According

to Mr. Rochtus, at the time owner of Anthony, and the jeweller who sold the

Antwerp tea table, this procedure was necessary if the client did not want to

combine the tea table with a “Gioconda” coffee and tea service. The top level

was the exact size of the tray of the set, meaning that another tray fitted badly

on top. Furthermore, the table with its top was not useable as a coffee table, in

the sense that the top stood in the way of for instance a tray with biscuits, or a

cake stand. By removing the small top level, one created a handsome art deco

“Gioconda” coffee table, with a large table top. The Antwerp tea table was

transformed for that reason. Our table also comes with a bevelled glass inset

to protect the top. The way the glass is made, supposes that its execution is

not much later than that of the table itself. It could therefore not be excluded

that the adjustments made to accommodate the previous owner, were

executed by the Brussels firm of La Compagnie des Arts, Poppe & Cie, which

was the only firm to make the “Gioconda” furniture elements according to

Phillipe Wolfers’ design.

This rare “Gioconda” table, which belongs to a private collection, was bought

out of an estate sale from a family who had a large house in La Hulpe. It is

presented in its original, unrestored condition.


Philippe Wolfers (attributed to)

Rivière bracelet for Sofie Willstädter, ca. 1925

Gold, rubies, diamonds, sapphires

Dimensions: lenght 19,8 cm

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (by descent)

According to family history, this bracelet was given by Philippe Wolfers to his

wife, Sofie Willstädter (1864–1946), in the 1920’s. It is unsigned and thus no direct

proof that the bracelet was designed by Philippe Wolfers nor that it was made in

the workshops of Wolfers Frères. But as it was a gift by Philippe Wolfers to his

beloved, logic dictates that he designed it and ordered the Wolfers workshops to

execute the bracelet.

We know that the bracelet was treasured by Marcel Wolfers, who passed the

story of the bracelet through to his children. The bracelet was never exhibited and

remained in the collection of Marcel Wolfers and Claire Petrucci.

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Philippe Wolfers

Enigme or Remember, 1925

Patinated bronze on a marble base

Dimensions: 60 × 38 × 25,5 cm

Signed: “Ph Wolfers / cire perdue” on the back of the shoulder

Marked: Oval foundry mark “cire perdue Montagutelli Bruxelles”

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Musée Philippe Wolfers, Wolfers Frères Brussels

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(acquired from the above)

Bibliography:

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 420 (No. 307)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Exposition Philippe Wolfers, Galerie Georges

Giroux, 18/02–29/02/1928, cat. No. 22

Antwerp, Exposition des oeuvres de Philippe Wolfers

Statuaire, Salle Plantin, 09/11–27/11/1929, cat. No. 16

Brussels, Pour l’Art XXXIIe salon de peinture et de

sculpture, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 21/11–21/12/1930,

cat. No. 2

Brussels, Philippe Wolfers 1858–1929 Précurseur de l’Art

Nouveau Statuaire. Exposition Rétrospective, Galerie

l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 58

The bust “Enigme” was renamed “Remember” in 1926, when the first cast was

given to Emile Anthony of the Antwerp branch to commemorate the centennial

of his firm. In total only two casts were executed. The present cast remained with

Wolfers Frères after the death of Philippe Wolfers and was part of the Philippe

Wolfers Museum. Typical of the style of Wolfers of the second half of the 1920’s,

the bust has a gentle and warm outlook and is characterised by the use of a

simplified and stylised modelé for the facial features.

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Philippe Wolfers

Coffee service Janine (Sb 4487), 1926

Silver, wood

Dimensions: height coffeepot 14,5 cm, length 22,8 cm (from spout to handle)

Marks: each piece marked on the bottom of the base with the Wolfers Frères Maker’s mark,

serial number (Sb 4487–4489–4490) and alloy mark for 800/1000

Philippe Wolfers named the “Janine” service after one of his granddaughters,

born in 1924. It is considered by many as one of his most interesting and beautiful

art deco creations. Although the design is very austere, the use of a pearl motif

between the feet and at the base of the wooden nob on the lid makes the coffeepot

look elegant. This classical touch is typical of the art deco style of Philippe

Wolfers.

Although the “Janine” service remained in production until WWII, it is

fairly rare. The original sets came with a tray in a lozenge form and had a coffeeand

teapot of the same height. This might have been the reason why it was a

service that apparently did not sell very well. In the 1930’s catalogue of the firm,

the tray was changed to a normal, larger and rectangular format and there was a

possibility to buy a larger coffeepot. This did not improve the sale of the pattern

which was discontinued after WWII. It has become one of the most iconic and

sought after models by Wolfers, featuring frequently in exhibition catalogues on

art deco design.

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Marcel Wolfers Exhibition at Galerie Nos Peintres (Brussels), 1932


Marcel Wolfers

Chemin de Croix de Marcinelle, 1st Station of the Cross,

1925

Salt glazed stoneware

Dimensions: 78,5 × 61 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers. / Fecit 1925”, to the right of the top edge of the relief

Signed: “Aline Duray”, to the left of the top edge of the relief

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels (Ixelles), Art Deco Belgique 1920–1940, Musée

d’Ixelles, 06/10–18/12/1988, cat. No. 222, p. 23 and

p. 251. (both with photo)

When Marcel Wolfers received the commission for the Stations of the Cross for

the roman church of Marcinelle (near Charleroi), he was asked to work with

the local stoneware pottery industry. After making his designs, he turned to the

pottery of Roger Guérin to execute two proof stations (1 and 2) according to his

specifications. It is possible that the signature “Aline Duray”, which figures next

to the signature of Marcel Wolfers, was of the person responsible for the glazing

and firing of these two pieces. However we were unable to find any record of such

person working for Guérin, nor do we know what her relation was to Marcel

Wolfers. Her name does not figure on the finished stations (executed by Guérin),

nor on the bronze proof stations that were executed. It is very unusual that this

station is signed twice.

Although we now think the result looks magnificent, Marcel Wolfers was not

at all happy with the result, because the artist felt unable to control the outcome

of the colours of the glazes. In the end, Marcel Wolfers found the solution by

applying coloured lacquer onto bisque fired stoneware panels by Guérin. The

definite version of the stations, now visible in the church of Marcinelle, were

executed according to this process.

Of the two proof stations made in glazed stoneware, Marcel Wolfers kept the

first station for himself. The second station was sold or given to the Brussels artist

Jef Bourgeois. It is however unsure if this last station has survived. Bourgeois’

house and collection were partially destroyed in 1944 by a flying bomb.

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Marcel Wolfers

L’Esclave de Pilate, 1924/1957

Bisque fired clay with gold paint

Dimensions: 29,5 × 28 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers” / “3/3” and “1957” bottom right

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

The slave of Pilatus was a fragment of the first station of the cross that Marcel

Wolfers made for the church of Marcinelle. Originally, the sculptor made a marble

relief of the slave holding a tray. Subsequently a plaster model and a bisque fired

clay model were made. The ceramic was used by Marcel Wolfers to experiment

with gilding. Apparently this experiment pleased the sculptor, and another six

reliefs in bisque fired clay were made in or from 1932 onwards. It is unclear if

these six casts included this one, which is numbered 3 out of 3, and dated 1957.

If not, Marcel Wolfers would have decided to make another series of three casts in

1957, which would make a total of nine bisque fired casts. The gilding of the casts

was done by the artist himself and is not always identical.

This cast is one of two casts that originally belonged to the artist’s collection.

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Marcel Wolfers

Chemin de Croix de Marcinelle,

10th and 11th Station of the Cross, 1927–1929

Bronze, with lacquer patination mounted on a wooden frame

Dimensions: each 96 × 78 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers” bottom right of the relief

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels, Exposition Universelle et Internationale –

Chapelle Royale, 1935 (stations XI & XII)

Brussels, Galerie Désir, 17/12–30/12/1938, cat. No. 102 &

103 (stations XI & XII)

Liège, Salon des Artistes Anciens Combattants, 1939

(stations XI & XII)

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 22/05–13/06/1970, cat. No. 68

(stations XI & XII)

Sint-Martens-Latem, Marcel Wolfers (1886–1976),

White art centre, 10/09–16/10/1988 (stations XI &

XII)

The commission of the Stations of the Cross for the roman church of Marcinelle

(near Charleroi) has proved to be of primordial importance for Marcel Wolfers

evolution as a sculptor. The challenges here were significant. He wanted to make

a work of art that was modern and devoid of sentimentalism and at the same time

make the reliefs visible in the dark space of the small church. This lead him to

the conclusion that the work had to be polychrome. The colours were to be used

in a way as to make the reliefs visible and to support the emotions of the scenes

displayed on each station of the cross.

After having experimented with enamels and salt glazes on stoneware at the

workshop of Roger Guérin, Marcel Wolfers came to the only solution, consisting

of the use of lacquer, where he was able to control the colours at will. The Stations

of the Cross of Marcinelle became thus the first large commission for the Lacquer

Workshop of Marcel Wolfers.

After making the compositions and original plaster mouldings in 1925, Marcel

Wolfers started by making two stations in bronze. It is possible that he envisaged a

whole lacquered bronze ensemble, but at first, he wanted to have two stations that

he could show at important exhibitions. Bronze being less delicate then ceramics

and being a material that the sculptor new through and through, the choice seems

obvious.

The first finished bronze stations, number 10 and number 11, were shown for

the first time in Paris at the Salon d’Automne of 1927. As they are described in

the catalogue as “bronze, cire perdue”, it is almost for certain that he showed the

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stations without a lacquer patination. It is probable that they were lacquered soon

afterwards, but before July 1928, date when Marcel Wolfers ordered 7 stations in

bisque fired stoneware by the firm of Helman in Brussels (Guérin no longer was

involved in the project due to the technical difficulties they encountered in firing

the large stations). The first time the lacquered bronze stations were shown to

the public was at the large exhibition of Marcel Wolfers in Galerie Nos Peintres in

Brussels in 1932.

The Stations of the Cross received much press coverage, especially in

magazines and books on modern religious art. They were praised for their novel

approach in depicting the Suffering of Christ, for their sculptural qualities and

for the novelty of using lacquer to polychrome the stations. To Marcel Wolfers

his polychrome lacquered sculptures belonged to the same tradition as the

polychromed medieval sculptures.

The stations of the cross were installed in Marcinelle on Good Friday in

1931. On his large retrospective in 1932, he showed 9 stations from the church,

along with one probably double station number 12, which was for sale. The two

lacquered bronze stations 10 and 11 were also shown and for sale at a price of

10.000 frcs,-, a price that indicates that Marcel Wolfers did not care to sell them.

For Marcel Wolfers, the importance of the two lacquered bronze stations was

double: they proved his mastery as a lacquer artist and at the same time confirmed

his position as a modern religious sculptor in Europe.


Philippe Wolfers

Pythonisse, 1927

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 105 × 43 × 37 cm

Signed: “Ph Wolfers cire perdue” below, at the side

Marked: with an oval foundry stamp “Montagutelli cire perdue Bruxelles”

This sculpture is unique.

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Musée Philippe Wolfers, Wolfers Frères Bruxelles

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Exhibited:

Antwerp, Exposition des oeuvres de Philippe Wolfers

Statuaire, Salle Plantin, 09/11–27/11/1929, cat. No. 89

Rome, Un Secolo d’Arte Belga 1830–1930, Galleria

Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, 25/03–23/04/1933,

cat. No. 19

Philippe Wolfers 1858–1929 Précurseur de l’Art Nouveau

Statuaire. Exposition Rétrospective, Bruxelles,

Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 77

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 73

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal

(1858–1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst,

1979, p. 50

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent,

Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 25 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van

het persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in

De Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 425 (No. 321)

The name “Pythonisse” derives from the priestess of Apollo in Greek mythology,

but is generally a name used for women with the gift of prophecy. This large torso

is to be counted as one of the most important sculptures by Philippe Wolfers.

Although created in 1927, only one cast in bronze was executed. Two other

versions in a reduced size were made in marble and ivory.

As is the case for several bronzes who were patinated by Philippe Wolfers

himself, the patination of this bronze is spectacular through its use of gold foil and

its rich dark green colour. When acquired by Marcel Wolfers after the dissolution

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of the Philippe Wolfers Museum in 1972, the sculpture sat outside, in the garden of

the rue de Praetere building. Through the years, the outlook of the sculpture had

changed dramatically. When the sculpture was shown publicly for the last time, in

2006, it was difficult to see the features of “Pythonisse” and the sculpture had lost

a lot of its original expression. To the credit of Philippe Wolfers’ craftsmanship,

the original patination underneath the oxidation remained in good condition and

reappeared after professional cleaning in preparation for this exhibition.

The head of the sculpture became a sculpture in its own right and was executed

in granite in 1929. François Franck and Cléomir Jussiant, two of Belgium’s most

important and influential collectors of modern art, each bought a copy. A third

was sold to another collector.


The large bronze remained in the collection of the artist and after his death it

became one of the central pieces of the Philippe Wolfers Museum. “Phytonisse”

was only shown publicly once during the artist’s lifetime, in 1928 during the

Philippe Wolfers retrospective exhibition at Galerie Giroux in Brussels. After the

stay in the Wolfers Museum, the sculpture disappeared into the Marcel Wolfers

and Clairette Petrucci private collection. It was only shown once since then,

at the Wolfers Dynasty Exhibition in the Design museum Gent in 2006–2007.

Philippe Wolfers exhibition at Galerie Georges Giroux (Brussels), 1928

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Marcel Wolfers

Head of Christ or Le Précurseur, 1928

Bronze with lacquer patination, on a lacquered wooden base

Dimensions: 45 × 16 × 19,5 cm (with base)

Signed: “EX. 5/5 Marcel Wolfers” and “28”, on the neck near the base

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Sint-Martens-Latem, Marcel Wolfers (1886–1976),

White art centre, 10/09–16/10/1988 (with photograph

of the sculpture on the cover of the invitation)

Confusingly Marcel Wolfers used both the titles “Head of Christ” and “The

Precursor” (Saint-John the Baptist) for this sculpture. It was one of the most

iconic lacquered bronzes that Marcel Wolfers made. The sculpture is also one

of the most reproduced works of the artist during his lifetime. We think it highly

probable that the sculptor ordered the 5 bronze lost-wax casts of the head

together. The first cast, probably still retaining its original lacquer patina, was

sold to the Spanish Government in 1930, the second cast was sold to the Royal

Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels in 1931. This cast was relacquered by the

artist in 1964, the same year he lacquered the fourth cast which he gave to his

wife Clairette Petrucci. The third cast, sold to his brother-in-law in 1936,was

relacquered in 1965, when Marcel Wolfers also finished and lacquered the last

remaining cast, number 5/5.

The head of Christ or St-John the Baptist is typical example of the way Marcel

Wolfers uses lacquer to give an extra dimension to his sculptures. Already very

modern and stylised, his sculptures gain an aura of mystery when lacquered. The

lacquer makes them look ancient, and certainly here one subconsciously draws a

comparison with the lacquered Buddhist sculptures in the East.

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Marcel Wolfers

Holocausta, 1929

White Carrara marble on a yellow marble base

Dimensions: 52 × 27 × 36,5 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers/1929 / Ex. Unique”, on the side of the sculpture base

This work is unique.

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels, Pour l’Art. XXXIe Salon de Peinture et de

Sculpture, Palais des Beaux-Arts, 15/11–15/12/1929,

cat. No. 154 (with an asking price of 35.000 frcs)

Brussels, Marcel Wolfers sculpteur-laqueur, Galerie Nos

Peintres, 26/11–9/12/1932, cat. No. 12

Milan, Esposizione d’arte Belga contemporanea,

Galleria Pesaro, Marzo 1932, cat. No. 119

Liège, Société Royale des Beaux-Arts de Liège. Salon

Quatriennal de Belgique., Palais des Beaux-Arts,

16/05–1/06/1936, cat. No. 575

The unusual title for this sculpture is explained by a notice in Marcel Wolfers

own handwritten catalogue raisonné of his sculptures. The present sculpture is

a reduction on scale 1/3 and was designed as “un monument aux poètes morts

pendant la Guerre”. Although Marcel Wolfers made smaller versions in bronze,

stoneware and glazed earthenware, the marble version of the sculpture has

remained unique.

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Marcel Wolfers

Holocausta vêtue, 1922

White glazed ceramic on a greenish brown ceramic base

Dimensions: 26 × 18,5 × 14 cm

Signed: “MWolfers Ex N° 5”, on the back side of the base

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

A small version, derived from the plaster life size version, but with the sitting

female figure draped in a robe. Slightly earlier then the marble version, it was

executed in 5 copies, 4 of which were sold before 1926, Marcel Wolfers kept the

fifth copy for himself. Contrary to what was thought previously, the casts were not

made by Guérin, but by the firm Céramique de Bruxelles.

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Philippe Wolfers

Impéria, 1929

Blue limestone on a later wooden pedestal

Dimensions: 42 × 32 × 32 cm (height with wooden pedestal: 172 cm)

Signed: on the back of the shoulder “Ph Wolfers

This sculpture is unique.

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Musée Philippe Wolfers, Wolfers Frères Brussels

Private Collection, Brussels

Exhibited:

Antwerp, Exposition des oeuvres de Philippe Wolfers

Statuaire, Salle Plantin, 09/11–27/11/1929, cat. No. 91

Rome, Un Secolo d’Arte Belga 1830–1930, Galleria

Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, 25/03–23/04/1933,

cat. No. 18

Bibliography:

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 416 (No. 294)

The head of “Impéria” of 1929 is part of a group of monumental heads or busts,

carved in stone, that were executed for the important 1929 exhibition in Antwerp,

where Philippe Wolfers wanted to make his name as modern sculptor. Wolfers

had already made a bronze “Impéria” in 1922, and the head was part of the

bronzes that he used in the “Gioconda” room in Paris in 1925. With a very rough

surface, the bronze head was made in his so-called “Hellenistic” period, where

the sculptor tried to emulate the surface corrosion on Greek and Roman antique

bronzes, excavated from the earth or salvaged from the seas. In 1929 Philippe

Wolfers sought to modernise this sculpture and conceived a classical “Impéria”,

much more stylised and simple then the 1922 bronze. Clearly, the unique

sculpture carved in Belgian blue limestone or “Petit granit” is much more in tune

with the aesthetics of the 1930’s art deco.

Originally on a probably “noir de mazy” base, the sculpture has lived outside

in a Brussels garden for the last 40 years. The previous owners received the

sculpture as a payment for their

Wolfers stock papers by the Parisian

firm of Chaumet at the time of their

takeover of Wolfers Frères S.A. in

1975. They displayed “Impéria” on

their garden terrace, but without its

base, apparently already missing.

When acquiring the bust, we decided

to mount it on its current wooden

pedestal, which is contemporary to the

sculpture.

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Philippe Wolfers

Head of Salomé, 1929

Granite

Dimensions: 35,5 × 32 × 28,5 cm

Signed: “Ph Wolfers” on the back of the shoulder

This sculpture is unique.

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Musée Philippe Wolfers, Wolfers Frères Brussels

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(acquired from the above)

Exhibited:

Antwerp, Exposition des oeuvres de Philippe Wolfers

Statuaire, Salle Plantin, 09/11–27/11/1929, cat. No. 89

´s Gravenhage, Tentoonstelling van Belgische Beeldende

Kunst van de Laatste Honderd Jaren, Pulchri Studio,

10/10–03/11/1931, cat. No. 116

Rome, Un Secolo d’Arte Belga 1830–1930, Galleria

Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, 25/03–23/04/1933,

cat. No. 19

Brussels, Galerie l’Ecuyer, 13/10–12/11/1972, cat. No. 77

Ghent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 12/05–10/06/1979,

cat. No. 73

Ghent, Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007

Bibliography:

Philippe Wolfers 1858–1929 Précurseur de l’Art Nouveau

Statuaire. Exposition Rétrospective, Bruxelles,

Galerie L’Ecuyer, 1972, s.p.

Philippe Wolfers : juwelen, zilver, ivoor, kristal (1858–

1928), Gent, Museum voor Sierkunst, 1979, p. 50

De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver, Gent, Design

museum Gent, 2006, p. 26 (with photo)

Adriaenssens W., Beredeneerde Catalogus van het

persoonlijke oeuvre van Philippe Wolfers in De

Wolfers Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco,

Gent, Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 428 (No. 330)

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172

The head of “Salomé” of 1929 is part of a group of monumental heads or busts,

carved in stone, that were executed for the important 1929 exhibition in

Antwerp, where Philippe Wolfers wanted to make his name as modern sculptor.

Wolfers wanted to prove that he – stylistically – no longer belonged to the old

generation of the 1900’s.

It is without a doubt that the sculpture of “Salomé” remains one of the most

emblematic of the art deco sculptures by Philippe Wolfers. By taking the head

of this sculpture, and executing it live size in black granite, Philippe Wolfers

created a very powerful image, that is strengthened by the fact that the head is

only slightly tilted so that the beholder can capture Salome’s powerful gaze.

It is possible that Philippe Wolfers wanted to create an edition of the

“Salomé” head. In the Antwerp catalogue, the sculpture is mentioned as

“Exemplaire No. 1”. However, due to the sudden death of the artist, this sculpture

remained unique.

The Head of “Salomé” belonged to a selected group of important sculptures,

drawings and objects that constituted the ‘Philippe Wolfers Museum’ and that

was displayed in the exhibition hall and workshop of Philippe Wolfers at Wolfers

Frères in the Arenberg street (Brussels). After the dissolution of this museum in

1972, the sculpture was acquired by Marcel Wolfers for his personal collection.


Marcel Wolfers (attributed)

Bronze hand moulding of Philippe Wolfers, 1929

Patinated bronze

Dimensions: 16 × 13,5 × 6 cm

Oval foundry mark “Montagutelli Bruxelles cire perdue” on the inside of the hand

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (by descent)

There is a long history in the making of moulds of artists’ hands post mortem.

Mostly made by sculptors or professional moulders, they were sometimes cast in

bronze and were often displayed in museums.

According to family history, this mould was made by Marcel Wolfers of the

hand of his father Philippe Wolfers. It is however very curious that the cast is of

the left hand of the artist, implying thus that Philippe Wolfers was left handed, as

one moulded the hand with which the artist plied his trade. Unfortunately this

theory is almost impossible to prove. This is the only cast that is known to exist.

174


Marcel Wolfers / After a design by Anto

Carte

Les Jeunes Epoux, ca. 1930

Lacquer on wooden panel

Dimensions: 19,2 × 19,2 cm

Signed: with the gold plaque “Marcel / Wolfers”, bottom right

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Sint-Martens-Latem, Marcel Wolfers (1886–1976) –

Lakwerken, White Art Centre, 10/09–16/10/1988

This lacquer panel was executed after a design by the painter Anto Carte. Marcel

Wolfers executed a number of designs by his artist friend, in different media.

Carte also submitted some designs for the Wolfers firm. Their most noted

collaboration remains their involvement in the “Roseau Vert” editions.

Marcel Wolfers executed two different versions of this design. In both cases

the scene of a man kneeling before his spouse, planting a blooming tree or bush

together, is the same but the execution in lacquer is totally different. Wolfers

describes the first panel as “engraved lacquer”. In his archive we discovered a

copper panel, of the same size, with the Anto Carte design etched into the plate.

It is possible that the copper plate with engraving was used as a base, and then

filled up with lacquer.

The second version, which we propose here, differs significantly in colour and

finish from the first. The background of the image shows a honeycomb cell like

structure. The central image is filled in with layers of black, red, green and gold

lacquer, which are subsequently polished. Top layers are rubbed through to reveal

underlying layers, so a subtle play of colours and textures is revealed.

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Marcel Wolfers

Glass vase with black lacquer

Lacquer on glass vase with silver base

Dimensions: 10,2 × 6,3 cm

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

This black lacquer on glass vase is one of only three objects for which Marcel

Wolfers used glass as a base for lacquer. It is unclear when the piece was made,

but if we can conclude that the three pieces were made at the same time, we must

put the date around 1930, as we know that a glass lacquered bottle was made

around this period.

Monochrome colours in lacquer are what every lacquer artist aims to achieve.

It is indeed very difficult and time consuming to get an even colouring on the

whole surface of an object. No error can be hidden and even a slight difference in

colour is visible.

The drawing and description of the piece are included in Marcel Wolfers’ hand

written catalogue of lacquer objects. It also states that this piece is unique and

has a value of 1000,- frcs. Probably due to the fact that the base is glass, the piece

was not signed with a gold plaque, but its inclusion in the lacquer catalogue meant

that it was a finished piece.

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Marcel Wolfers

Victoire Ailée, 1931

Patinated bronze on a wooden base

Dimensions: 62 × 25,5 × 8 cm

Provenance:

Wolfers Frères ( ?)

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (acquired from the above ?)

The sculpture was originally created as a trophy for a rally, known as “Challenge

Junieck or Juneck”. It was cast in silver and the flag was covered in lacquer with

eggshell. At the same time, Marcel Wolfers was asked to execute a second cast,

probably also in silver, as a gift from the city of Charleroi to the 2nd regiment of

the “Chasseurs à Pied”, who celebrated their 100 years of existence. A third cast

was ordered by Wolfers Frères, and should have been in silver, but was executed

in bronze (In Marcel Wolfers’ account book he writes “Victoire III: W[olfers]

F[rères] Ag. Fondue remp. par bronze”. This version was about 800,- frcs. cheaper

than the silver casts. Marcel Wolfers also made a magnificent variant with a laurel

wreath in Victory’s hand, carved in ivory and mounted on an ebony base. Again

according to his notebook, he made the ivory version for his wife Clairette.

The sculpture continued very popular, as probably in the 1950’s, 10 reductions

were ordered in silver, also to be used as trophies. Later on 2 extra casts were

added.

In conclusion, the version in our exhibition should be the third, patinated

bronze, version of “Victory with the flag”. Unfortunately we lack photographic

evidence to be 100% sure.

The Victory of 1931 is an iconic art deco sculpture that has a very decorative

appeal. Although unsigned, the work is highly finished and is mounted on a

specially conceived base. According to the information that we have up to this day,

it seems that this sculpture is also unique.

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Yvan Obozinski / Marcel Wolfers

Art deco dressing table, 1932

Wood (Japanese oak), metal, mirror and lacquer panel

Dimensions: 162 × 87 × 50 cm

Provenance:

“l’Oeuvre Nationale des Beaux-Arts”, Brussels

Léon Sarteel, Ghent

Clara Mion-Sarteel (by descent)

Exhibited:

Brussels, Tombola Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Palais des

Beaux-Arts, 15/06–15/07/1932, cat. No. 4 (Intérieurs)

Brussels (Ixelles), Art Deco Belgique 1920–1940, Musée

d’Ixelles, 06/10–18/12/1988, cat. No. 472

Villeneuve d’Ascq, Art Deco Belgique 1920–1940,

Musée d’Art Moderne de Villeneuve d’Ascq,

21/01–02/04/1989

Bibliography:

Steel R., De Internationale profilering van Wolfers Frères

S.A. onder leiding van Marcel Wolfers in De Wolfers

Dynastie – van art nouveau tot art deco, Gent,

Design museum Gent, 2006, p. 241–242 (with photo)

Poulain N., Meubelensembles voor de Tombola nationale

des beaux-arts in Interbellum, 37/3, 2017, p. 5–12

(with photo on p. 10)

This dressing table belonged to a bedroom set designed by Yvan Obozinski

(sometimes erroneously written Obozinsky). Born in 1901, he was the younger

brother of the architect Jacques Obozinski (1890–1981). Yvan Obozinsky was

trained as an architect at the Brussels Academy. He was foremost a designer,

working in advertising, designing interiors, often in collaboration with his

architect brother. On special commission he designed furniture, often in

collaboration with the Jasinki firm in Brussels. He also had designs executed

by the firm of Stevens in Mechelen, with whom he probably came into contact

through the artist Karel Maes. Obozinski often worked for the “Compagnie

Maritime Belge” in Antwerp and was responsible for the overall decoration

of the cruise ship “Baudouinville”. The ship was finished in 1939 but was

completely destroyed in 1944. During WWII, Obozinsky worked for Wolfers,

probably through mediation of Marcel Wolfers, and supplied designs for

metalware.

The bedroom ensemble, a unique commission for the government, must

have been designed in close collaboration with Marcel Wolfers.

When Marcel Wolfers started his lacquer workshop, one of the main

purposes was to work closely together with architects and designers in

incorporating lacquer in interior furnishings. Wolfers envisaged furniture with

lacquer and lacquer coating on doors and panels in a modern designed home.

The 1932 commission by the government which befell Yvan Obozinski, was

Marcel Wolfers’ ideal moment to show to the Belgian design and art world that

lacquer was a beautiful material, to be used to great effect in modern designs.

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184

The design by Obozinski incorporated flawlessly the lacquer panels made by

Marcel Wolfers. The most interesting element of the bedroom was the art deco

dressing table, made in Japanese oak by the renowned furniture maker Stevens

from Mechelen. It boasts a large mirror and a cupboard with a red/orange

lacquer tablet. The dressing table came with a small tapestry designed by the

artist Jean Goffin (woven by the Brussels firm of E. Muller), the art deco light

was executed by F. Debuyst, also from Brussels.

Although Marcel Wolfers dreamt of making his lacquer workshop a place

where modern designers could come to have their designs executed in lacquer

or to decorate them with this precious material, his dream never materialised.

Due to the long production process of natural lacquer and the subsequent price

tag, designers and architects quickly chose alternatives like synthetic lacquers.

Marcel Wolfers has executed in total only 4 or 5 items of furniture with a lacquer

decoration. The Obozinski dressing table is the only overtly modernist design

which incorporates lacquer. The unique dressing table is one of only two large

pieces of furniture that we know to have survived.


Marcel Wolfers

Bust of St-Luke or the Portrait of Rogier Van der Weyden,

1934–1935

Bronze with a lacquer patination, mounted on a base of wood

Dimensions: 62 × 40 × 39 cm

Signed: “Marcel Wolfers” on the short right side of the wooden base

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

The idea for a monument dedicated to Rogier Van der Weyden came from Jules

Destrée, historian, art critic and politician. As he befriended Marcel Wolfers,

the latter was an obvious choice to create the monument. Wolfers took the

composition of the “St-Luke painting the Virgin”, of which the supposed original

belongs to the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, as a basis. The figure of St-Luke

is believed to be a self-portrait of the artist. He proceeded in making a three

dimensional version of the Van der Weyden painting, but by putting the Holy

Mary on a pedestal, succeeded in making a dynamic group of the otherwise

very static original composition. From the beginning it was also clear to Marcel

Wolfers that the patination of the group would have to be executed in lacquer,

which enabled him to create a vivid polychrome public monument.

After a long genesis and a lot of interference by several authorities, a first

monument was executed and shown outside one of the pavilions of the Brussels

World Fair of 1935. The lacquer coating appeared to have suffered because a

restauration to the lacquer was needed after the exhibition. After many trials

and tribulations (at a certain point in time, the immense group was lost by the

city of Brussels) the sculpture was eventually installed in the city hall of Laeken

(Brussels). A second version was commissioned by the city of Tournai and was

installed in 1936 next to the cathedral of the city, where it still is visible, but

without its original lacquer patina.

Marcel Wolfers executed

small versions of the monument

between 1933 and 1934. We also

have the original plaster model

of a complete “St-Luke” for sale,

which shows the attention to

detail the sculptor had, even when

he was creating a modello for a

large monument.

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It is unclear when the bust of “Saint-Luc” was executed. Probably Marcel Wolfers

wanted to have a 1 on 1 model, with the lacquer patina, to show to Count Adrien

Van der Burgh, who commissioned the monument for the World Fair. In that case

the bust was possibly executed after March 1934 but before May 1935 when the

completed group went to the foundry for casting. To this day, no other cast of the

bust is known to have been made.

Marcel Wolfers

Plaster study of St-Luke, 1933–1934

Plaster

Dimensions: 24,5 × 16 × 12,5 cm

188


Marcel Wolfers

Coffee and Tea Service Méda (Sf 209), 1935

Silver and ivory

Dimensions: height coffeepot 20,5 cm, length 22,5 cm (from spout to handle) / tray: 38 × 60 cm

Marked: All pieces are marked on the bottom with serial number (Sf 209 to Sf212), maker’s mark of Wolfers Frères

S.A. post-1942, alloy mark for 835/1000. The tray is marked on the back of the rim with serial number “Pa 172”,

maker’s mark post-1942, alloy mark for 800/1000.

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels, 150 ans d’industries d’Art en Belgique 1830–

1980, Musée Bellevue, 04/10–30/11/1980, cat. No. 145

Brussels (Ixelles), Art Deco Belgique 1920–1940, Musée

d’Ixelles, 06/10–18/12/1988, cat. No. 472

Villeneuve d’Ascq, Art Deco Belgique 1920–1940,

Musée d’Art Moderne de Villeneuve d’Ascq,

21/01–02/04/1989

Zürich, Bellerive Museum, 06/10/1993–09/01/1994,

cat. No. 152

Antwerp (Deurne), Art-Deco zilver Antwerpen-Brussel-

Gent, Provinciaal Museum Sterckshof- Zilvercentrum,

27/02–27/05/1996, cat. No. B108

The “Méda” service was designed especially for the 1935 Brussels World Fair.

According to Marcel Wolfers he was responsible for the design. It is interesting

to note the similarities between “Méda” and the, in 1930 designed, service

“Pastilles”, probably designed by Omer (Thurr) de Waegh. This leads us to think

that the design of “Méda” was a joint effort of the Wolfers design department,

under the lead of Marcel Wolfers.

Executed in the highest quality and showing the novelty of hingeless lids for

the coffee- and teapots, the service is relatively classic in style, but resembles the

Scandinavian design of the 1930’s. As was the case with the “Gioconda” pattern,

“Méda” was meant to be a pattern that went beyond the coffee and tea service.

It was combined with the “Mona Lisa” cutlery and Marcel Wolfers designed

porcelain plates which were executed by the Brussels firm of Demeuldre-Coché.

Additional items such as bowls, trays and small items such as salts and oil and

vinegar sets were also designed en suite.

The uncertain economic and political situation of the 1930’s and the outbreak

of WWII only five years after the creation of “Méda”, meant that Wolfers Frères

S.A. manufactured very few sets of the service before 1940. The design was

significantly ahead of its time, so even in the 1950’s (and today) the “Méda” looked

and looks strikingly modern and pleasing to the eye. Most of the “Méda” coffee

and tea services are hence marked with the post-war maker’s mark of Wolfers

Frères S.A.

This five piece service belonged to Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci

personally and was used on special occasions only.

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Clairette Petrucci

l’Atelier or Intérieur, 1937

Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 80,5 × 65,5 cm

Signed: “Cl. Petrucci Wolfers” bottom right

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Paris, Salon d’Automne, 30/10–28/11/1937, cat. No. 1170

Brussels, Galerie de la Toison d’Or, 02/12–11/12/1939,

cat. No. 14bis

Brussels, Galerie Au Cheval de Verre, 05/12–18/12/1947,

cat. No. 15

Clairette Petrucci was born into an artistic milieu. Her mother was the eldest

daughter of the renowned painter Alfred Verwee, and her aunt Emma was also a

painter of great talent. It is probably by Emma that she was given her first drawing

lessons. Her father, Raphaël Petrucci, had also trained as a painter and was a

prolific illustrator and caricaturist. Clairette’s parents befriended a whole range of

artists whom Clairette came to know. She sometimes sat for artists. We know for

instance of a portrait of her by Alfred Bastien, that she received as a gift. Another

friend of the family who had a large influence on Clairette, was the fauvist painter

Jean Van den Eeckhout.

Clairette started her actual painting studies at the “Académie de la Grande

Chaumière” in Paris. Amongst her teachers were Lucien Simon and René Ménard.

At the Academy she befriended a lot of female artists, such as Jeanne Bergson

(sculptor, pupil of Bourdelle) and Valentine Prax, who became lifelong friends.

Back in Belgium, she could count on regular visits to her atelier from Juliette

Cambier, Suzanne Cocq and Maurice Brocas, Edgard Tytgat, Jules-Marie Canneel,

and many others. Sometimes they exhibited together.

Clairette’s style evolved from fauvism towards a realist style, typical of the

1930’s. In contemporary reviews, her work is often compared to that of Louis

Thévenet, a painter she much admired. Her flower still lives were placed next to

these of her friend Juliette Cambier. The most important works were created

in the 1930’s. After WWII, Clairette lost contact with the modern art world and

painted more for herself, only exhibiting on invitation of befriended gallerists, as

was the case for the Studio 88 and Au Cheval de Verre shows. Most of her works

belong to private collections, but her total output of paintings has remained very

limited. She listed her important works in a catalogue and came to a total of 126

oil paintings. The present work, the interior of her workshop in Vieusart, was

considered by many to be one of her best and was a painting that she has never

wanted to sell during her lifetime.

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Marcel Wolfers

Coffee and Tea Service Belvédère (Sf 564), ca. 1958

Coffee and Tea service

Silver, silver gilt and ivory

Dimensions: coffee pot height 24,7 cm, length 16 cm (from spout to handle) / tray: 54 × 32,5 cm

Marked: All pieces marked on the bottom with serial number (Sf 564 to Sf 567), maker’s mark of Wolfers Frères

S.A., post 1942, alloy mark for 925/1000 (sterling)

The “Belvédère” model has an illustrious past. When the firm of Wolfers decided

to participate in the Brussels World Fair of 1958, they decided to invest heavily

into the creation of new models. As had been the case with the participations

of Wolfers Frères at international exhibitions or world fairs, going back to 1897

over 1925 (Paris), 1935 (Brussels), 1937 (Paris) and 1939 (New York), a highly

important participation meant a large press coverage and eventually was good

for sales. The “Belvédère” model, named after the restored palace where the

Commissariat Général had its seat and held its banquets during the “Expo ‘58”,

was to be luxurious but at the same time had to appeal to a new buyers public.

The design and development of the cutlery “Belvédère”, according to the

Wolfers publicity made especially for the table of the Commissariat Général

started in 1954. In that year Wolfers showed a prototype at a show in Ghent.

To this date, the model number 243, as it was referred to in the Wolfers

administration, remains a magnificent design, overtly modern without

breaking with the Wolfers tradition. The model was developed targeting

young, fashionable couples visiting the world fair. With the cutlery came silver

“Belvédère” plates and trays of a very simple and modern design.

The coffee and tea service was aimed at another clientele. In the 1950’s

Wolfers Frères S.A., under the impulse of Freddy Wolfers, wanted to tap into

the lucrative market of the Arabian peninsula. Hence the somewhat unusual

pear shaped bodies of the service. This model appealed less to European taste,

but was indeed a success with Arabian clients resulting in, amongst others,

the largest commission Wolfers had ever received, ordered by King Saud bin

Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia. The quality of finish and weight of the “Belvédère”

service is impressive, so is the ample use of ivory. Although it had no merit

as a modernist creation of the1950’s, if we look at it today, we can make the

link between “Belvédère” and the work of Mendini, Sottsass and other Studio

Alchimia and Memphis designers in Italy in the 1980’s.

Both the “Belvédère” cutlery and the service were difficult to sell. The cutlery,

being modern, was supposed to cater to a young market, but was too expensive.

Young couples preferred for instance the modern “Duo” pattern, designed by

194


Tapio Wirkkala in 1957, which was made by Christofle in plated silver and was

often retailed in the same shops as Wolfers silver. The design looked the part, but

more importantly the price was half that of “Belvédère”. As for the “Belvédère”

coffee and tea service, its high price and unusual design made it almost impossible

to sell to the rather conservative clients in Belgium at that time.

As a consequence, both cutlery and coffee and tea service in the “Belvédère”

pattern are very rare. Up to this date only two “Belvédère” services and only a

couple of cutlery sets made it onto the art market in the last 10 years.

Cutlery Service Belvédère (model 243), ca. 1958

Cutlery set for Six

Silver and metal for the knife blades

Comprising: 6 forks, 6 knives, 6 spoons, 6 entremets forks, 6 entremets knives, 6 entremets spoons, 6 fish forks,

6 fish knives, 6 coffee spoons, 6 cake forks (in total 60 pieces)

Marked: All pieces marked with maker's mark of Wolfers Frères S.A., post 1942, and alloy mark for 835/1000.

196


Marcel Wolfers / Antoine de Vinck

Three lacquered bowls, 1966

Lacquer on bisque fired stoneware (?)

Dimensions: 3 × 10 cm; 3,5 × 9,7 cm; 4,4 × 11,4 cm

Signed: on the bottom in red lacquer with the artist’s monograms “MW” and “AV” and dated “1966”

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

The ceramicist Antoine de Vinck (1924–1997) and Marcel and Clairette Wolfers-

Petrucci were great friends. They all were very sensible to the eastern arts

and adored early Chinese pottery and Japanese Chawan bowls. The Wolfers-

Petrucci collection held several pieces by de Vinck. Marcel Wolfers was always

experimenting with different methods to apply lacquer to a large variety of

surfaces. After the second world war, it took him a while to reinstall his lacquer

workshop in Vieusart and to acquire good quality lacquer. Around 1960, he

restarted making lacquer objects. The three bowls, bisque fired by Antoine de

Vinck, were lacquered by Marcel Wolfers in 1966. Although they look rough, all

pieces are signed with the monograms of both potter and lacquerer, and are

therefore considered finished. It is possible that Marcel Wolfers strived to create

lacquered bowls which were made to look as old, vernacular bowls, to resemble

rural every day pottery in Asia.

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200

The collection of Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci at Vieusart, ca. 1976


Unknown master, Nuremberg

The Levi Family brandy bowl, mid-17 th century

Silver, partially gilt

Dimensions: 3,5 × 11,3 × 13 cm

Marked: next to one of the handles with the city mark of Nuremberg (Germany) and maker’s mark “a loop in the

form of an eight with trefoils on both ends”, used between 1645–1651, which could be attributed to the master

August Döring.

Provenance:

Sophie Mayer, New Zealand (descendant of Philipp Wolff (Wolfers) and Johanna Levy)

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (gifted by the above)

The engraved brandy bowl with the names “Levi Joel / Salman Levi” remains

an object that is difficult to place within the Wolfers family history. By repute it

comes from the family of Johanna Levy (1788–1869), the second wife of Philipp

Wolff (Wolfers) and mother of Louis Wolfers. Further genealogical research

is needed to establish the link between the bowl and the Wolfers-Levi family.

Although Louis Wolfers, son of Philipp Wolff and Johanna Levy, was the father

of Philippe and grandfather of Marcel Wolfers, the bowl seems to have belonged

to a descendant of one of his siblings. It is only later that the piece was presented

by a Ms. Mayer to Marcel Wolfers, as having belonged to the parents of Johanna

Levy. Subsequently, Marcel Wolfers has kept the piece with the Wolfers family

heirlooms.

For the maker’s mark and the possible attribution to Döring, see Karin Tebbe,

et al., Nürnberger Goldschmiedekunst. 1541–1868, Band I : Meister, Werke,

Marken, Teil 1 : Textband, Nürnberg, 2007, p. 485, No. 1074. A similar brandy bowl

of the same maker is pictured on p. 958, photo 657 (Teil 2 : Tafeln). My thanks go

to Dr. Wim Nys for the identification of this piece.

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Unknown master

The so-called Louis Wolfers Masterpiece, 19th century

Silver, partially gilt

Dimensions: 27,6 × 15,2 cm

Marked on the rim with a mark resembling the city mark of Augsburg (Germany) and the Amtszeichen mark “B”

used in the Austrian city of Neustadt

Provenance:

Louis Wolfers (?)

Philippe Wolfers (by descent ?)

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

(by descent)

Bibliography:

Van Dievoet W., Les Wolfers – Orfèvres, Bijoutiers &

Joailliers, Bruxelles, Archives et Musées de la Ville

de Bruxelles, 2002, p. 29

Schotsmans J.-P., Les joailliers-orfèvres Wolfers in Les

Cahiers de la Fonderie – Revue d’histoire sociale et

industrielle de la région bruxelloise, n°9 décembre

1990, p. 4

This piece was carefully treasured by the descendants of Louis Wolfers, and has

always been referred to as his masterpiece, made in Augsburg at the age of 18. The

dish does not have a practical use and seems to be the work submitted to become

a master chaser, a so-called masterpiece. Only the front has been finished, the

back shows the techniques which were used.

However after careful examination of the marks, it seems to be erroneous

to attribute the piece to Louis Wolfers and/or to an Augsburg make. The only

identifiable mark is the “B” in a hexagonal shield, which was used in Neustadt

(Austria, then Austria-Hungary) as Amtszeichen or control mark in the first half

of the 19th century. However we cannot attribute it to another maker. We do not

know why this piece ended up in the Wolfers-Petrucci collection, but it is very

possible that there was a link between Louis Wolfers and this object.

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Léon Sneyers (attributed to)

An exhibition frame made for Philippe Wolfers,

ca. 1902–1905

Oak, brass and glass

Dimensions: 49 × 43,5 cm

Provenance:

Philippe Wolfers

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Although this frame is unsigned, it is very likely that it has been made by Léon

Sneyers (1877–1948). We know that for his participation in the Turin exhibition

of 1902, Philippe Wolfers asked architect Léon Sneyers, who was an assistant to

Paul Hankar, to design pedestals and at least one large wall vitrine for displaying

drawings. All these furnishings have a typical vertical or horizontal line motif cut

into the oak as a decoration. In this display frame, no such motif is used.

One can recognize Sneyer’s hand in the quality of the oak used and in the

way the frame ingeniously opens to change the drawing on display. The profile

of the frame is very delicately made, and maybe Sneyers refrained from using a

decoration because it would draw to much attention away from the design on

display. Finally, this exhibition frame closes with lock and key, an unusual feature

which we also find on the large Turin wall vitrine.

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Jef Codron

Portrait of Marcel Wolfers, 1908

Pastel on paper

Dimensions: 55 × 39 cm (day measure)

Signed: “Jef Codron 08” bottom right

Dedicated: “à mon ami Wolfers” bottom right

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (acquired from or given by the artist)

Jef Codron was born in 1882. He participated in the preliminary tests for the

Rome Prize contest of 1904 and 1907 as a painter. Maybe this was how he met

Marcel Wolfers. Another possible meeting place would have been the informal

gatherings of artists at the so-called Patte au Dindon Academy. Codron was and is

mainly know as an etcher and illustrator. His drawings are difficult to find, and on

the whole represent landscapes. A portrait by Codron is unusual.

Marcel Wolfers is depicted with a sun cap and an wearing an apron over his

clothes, so probably Codron drew Marcel when he was working at a drawing.

The sun cap could indicate that he was working outside. The drawing is prolific,

but has become somewhat more difficult to read, as the colour of the paper has

darkened through time.

The portrait was the only work by Jef Codron in the collection of Marcel

Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci. It shows Marcel Wolfers at the age of 22 and so

one of the earliest depictions of the young artist.

208


Emile Fabry

Zarathustra, 1909

Bister on paper

Dimensions: 53 × 42,5 cm (day measure)

Signed: “E. Fabry 1909” top right

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection (acquired from or given by the artist)

Emile Fabry (1865–1966) was one of the founding members of the Pour

l’Art artists group and became a close friend of Philippe Wolfers. Fabry was

commissioned by him to paint a large wall decoration in his newly built cottage

“Les Glycines”, by art nouveau architect Paul Hankar. Fabry has been working

on the murals between 1902 and 1905 and the parts that were finished were

exhibited at the salons of Pour l’Art. Fabry had a great influence on Philippe

Wolfers, and was a leading example to the young aspiring artist Marcel Wolfers.

It is no coincidence that Fabry’s influence is apparent in the drawings of Marcel

Wolfers from the years 1905–1910. Even his use of colours is related to the work

of Fabry at that time. The influence of the young and striking Wolfers, at that

time aged between 14 and 20, on Fabry was also clear: he used Marcel Wolfers as a

model. His image is seen in one of the compositions for the “Les Glycines” cottage

and also in this drawing of 1909.

Fascinated by “Alzo sprach Zarathustra” by Friederich Nietzsche, its visionary

message and aesthetics became central to Fabry’s art. The imaginary portrait of

“Zarathustra” is to be seen as a homage to Nietzsche’s book. We see “Zarathustra”

depicted as an eagle, with the lion in the left corner and the serpent to the right.

Could it be that they met at the free and informal gatherings of artists at the

so-called Patte au Dindon Academy? The face of “Zarathustra” is none other than

a portrait of Marcel Wolfers, then aged 23.

210


Frans Van Holder (attributed)

Portrait of Marcel Wolfers, study, ca. 1910–1914

Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 66 × 35 cm

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Franz Van Holder (1881–1919) was a close friend of the family. He painted a

magnificent portrait of Philippe Wolfers in 1907, now in the Royal Museums

of Fine Arts in Brussels (Inv. No. 7732). This study of son Marcel Wolfers, has

according to family tradition been painted between 1910 and 1914. Although

unfinished and therefore unsigned, it was always attributed to Franz Van Holder

and took pride of place in the Wolfers household. Marcel is depicted as a young

dandy, ready to go out riding. In the background to the left, one can discern a

plaster head of a horse, standing on a sculptor’s pedestal. This could be the head

of the “Possidere” sculpture by Marcel Wolfers, which was shown at the Venice

Biennale of 1912.

212


Arthur Navez

Portrait of Marcel Wolfers, 1914

From the series of “Quelques Portraits Contemporains” of the Great Zwans-Exhibition

Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 95,5 × 75,5 cm

Signed: top right “Navez”

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Brussels, Great Zwans-Exhibition, Marché de la

Madelaine, 11/05–14/06/1914, p. 60, cat. No. 12.

Bibliography:

Great Zwans-Exhibition, Bruxelles, Association de la

Presse Belge – Section Bruxelloise, 1914, p. 60

The tradition of the “Zwans” Exhibitions goes back to 1885. The exhibitions

were not merely supposed to be humorous, but often the works carried hidden

critiques on cultural, religious or political developments in the country. It was

also an opportunity to settle feuds among artists in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Many artists submitted works that parodied their own work, thus keeping the

initiative. Their aim was to raise money for charity.

Arthur Navez is one of those painters, who in spite of their contemporary

importance and quality of work, seem to have been forgotten. Around 1914, he was

well known for his fauvist paintings, often displaying elegant figures in interiors.

At the Great Zwans-Exhibition he showed a series of 34 portraits which he called

“Portraits Contemporains” or “Contemporary Portraits” of artists, journalists

and writers. The list was published under the heading of “Le Trombinoscope”,

a directory of people with their photographs, or in this case with their painted

portraits. Each more or less caricatural portrait was accompanied by a succinct

description of the depicted. In the case of the Marcel Wolfers portrait (exhibited

as number 12) it read: “Cette vague figure anglaise? / Un roi de la figure en glaise!”.

Indeed when one looks at the portrait, it is clear that Navez painted his friend

as an English dandy, perhaps with a slight bohemian touch. The second phrase

is a compliment on Marcel’s skills as a sculptor. A portrait by Navez from the

same exhibition and depicting Auguste Thomas (exhibited as number 1) is in the

collection of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels (inv. No. 11561 ). It was

painted onto the same background and shows many similarities in technique and

style with the Marcel Wolfers portrait. The fluidity of execution apparent in both

portraits points to the fact that they have probably been executed especially for

the exhibition. Most portraits of this series seem to have disappeared. Marcel

Wolfers was very attached to this work, which was displayed at a prominent place

in his Vieusart atelier.

214


216

Marcel Wolfers was also a contributor to the exhibition: under the name

“Bette Rave” he submitted a “Masque notarié du plus Beau des Wens”, cut out of

a beetroot. The accompanying caption next to his pen name reads “Ebauchoir

du sexe féminin. A trouvé une matière plastique supérieure à l’ivoire, l’argile, le

marbre et le bronze lui-même. Les vaches s’en relècheraient les babines ” (see the

1914 catalogue, under number 7, p. 40)


Gustavo Cochet

The castle Bossier in Dudzele (Flanders), ca. 1925–1930

Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 24,5 × 32,5 cm

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Gustavo or Gustave Cochet was born in Rosario (Argentina) on the 6th of May

1894 to a French father and a Argentinian mother. As a young man, he worked as

a telegraph operator while all his spare time was spent painting. He went to study

with the painter César Caggiano and met other contemporary painters in Buenos

Aires.

In 1915 he travelled to Barcelona and from there he went to live in Paris from

1920 onwards. He stayed in contact with Spain, often painting there and keeping

in touch with the cultural world. He was also involved in the anarchist movement

of the country. How he came to know Marcel and Clairette Wolfers-Petrucci is

not yet known, but as this painting shows, he was invited to their holiday home

of the 1920’s in Dudzele. Cochet’s painting style is very close to the folk art of his

native country and Spain. The naiveté of his work is also typical of 1920’s artists

who wanted to create a different kind of modern art, of which André Dunoyer de

Segonzac and Maurice Dufresne are its most well-known representatives today.

Gustave Cochet became more and more involved in Spanish politics from

1935 onwards, resulting in his flight back to Argentina in 1939. There he became

Professor of Painting at a school in the city of Santa Fe. Cochet died in Funes

(Santa Fe) in 1979. This city is also home to the Gustavo Cochet museum.

This painting is unsigned, but on the back of the stretcher it is indicated

(probably by Clairette) that the painting is by Cochet and is of Dudzele. Marcel

and Clairette Wolfers-Petrucci also possessed at least two drawings by Cochet in

their collection.

218


Yvan Obozinski

Coffeepot and sugar bowl Claudine, ca. 1942

Silver plate and wood

Dimensions: coffeepot: height 17,5 cm, length 20 cm (spout to handle)

sugar bowl: height 13 cm, length 22,5 cm

Marked: “XSf 7 / 14 / argenté in rectangle / 12” on the bottom of the sugar bowl

Provenance:

Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci collection

Exhibited:

Ghent, De Dynastie Wolfers – Meesters in zilver,

Design museum Gent, 16/12/2006–09/04/2007, p. 35

(with photo)

Probably through the mediation of Marcel Wolfers, Yvan Obozinski (1901–1979)

was able to work for Wolfers Frères S.A. It is not known how many designs

Obozinski made for Wolfers, nor for how long he has been working for the

company. It seems that he supplied the firm with designs that were only executed

in silver plate.

The Obozinski designs are characteristic of the Wolfers production of the

second half of the 1930’s. Oval shapes and fluent lines give these designs a great

elegance. We know that the “Claudine” service was only executed in silver plate,

but it was finished with the same attention to detail as a piece in silver. As was

often the case with Wolfers, the service was given a female name. Claudine was

the name of the daughter of Obozinski, who was born in the 1930’s. The service

was designed by Yvan Obozinski ca. 1942.

220


Acknowledgements

Our gallery has been promoting the work of Philippe and Marcel Wolfers for

decades. Our in-depth research has led to the identification of signatures,

monograms and marks. We have been able to rediscover lost masterpieces

by Philippe Wolfers and have tried to reconstruct the accurate history of the

lacquer workshop founded by Marcel Wolfers. This would of course not have

been possible without the help of many people who showed us necessary

information, gave us first-hand accounts of what happened so many years

ago, who introduced us to dealers and collectors willing to share information

or show us their treasures. It is impossible to mention everyone that has been

helping us during the last twenty years that we were restoring the Wolfers

name and fame throughout the world. So to those people, forgive us if we have

omitted your name, it is not on purpose and does not in any way mean that we

are not grateful for your help.

Our gratitude goes out to the whole of the Wolfers family, especially to

Mrs Claire-Nelly (Kikou) Baeyens-Wolfers (†) for her enthusiasm for and faith

in our “Wolfers plans” over the years and for sharing her incredible knowledge

of the work of her father and grandfather. Also we would like to thank Messrs.

Jean and Freddy Wolfers (†) for their accounts of the post war years of the firm.

We thank Dr. Werner Adriaenssens for his help with the cataloguing of some

items and for the use of his expertise on the work of Philippe and Marcel

Wolfers and the art deco and art nouveau period in general. Dr. Wim Nys

was a great help in identifying marks and clarifying some silver related

problems. A special mention for Dr. Annelies Krekel-Aalberse, who has been

an inspiration to start researching modern silver all those years ago, and whose

books remain a reference for dealers, collectors and scholars alike. Prof. Dr. Leo

De Ren, Mrs. A.-M. Claessens-Peré were there in the beginning and remained

committed to help. And when we were at loss we could always rely on Lieven

Daenens, honorary director of the Design museum Gent, who with his

experience, could point us in the right direction. The great silversmith and

lacquer artist Jean Lemmens helped us understand and appreciate the difficult

process of making objects in lacquer.

222


We would also like to mention some passionate dealers, who each in their

specific way, have contributed to our research: Martine D’Haeseleer (†),

Antoine Pucci, Monique de Changy, Daniel de Changy, Maurice Tzwern (†),

Elkan Wijnberg, Erik Müllendorff and Philippe Denys (†).

This exhibition and catalogue could not have been made without the help and/

or support of Cathérine Verleysen, Carl Vermassen, Cato, Antonia and Leonie

Vermassen Steel, Astrid and Olivia Steel, Christiana Pattheeuws, Christoph

Neerman and Tim Sautois.

Our greatest thanks and deepest regards go out to Marc, Nils and Vincent

Baeyens without whom this exhibition would have remained a dream.

Thank you.

Last but not least we want to thank our father, Leo Steel, who around 1992

showed a three piece silver tea service by a then fairly unknown silversmith

by the name of Wolfers. If we wanted to do some research on it to establish its

designer and to find out when it was made? It was the “Janine” model, designed

in 1926 by Philippe Wolfers for Wolfers Frères and named after one of his

granddaughters. Little did we know this was the start of a quest that has lasted

until today, and will continue to feed our curiosity for many decades to come…

223


This catalogue was published to accompany the Exhibition

Collection Marcel Wolfers and Clairette Petrucci: Hidden Treasures

at Galerie St-John, Gent, Belgium - 24 th November – 24 th December 2017

Exhibition by Galerie St-John Gent – Raf Steel & Emmy Steel

Texts by Raf Steel, Emmy Steel

Photographs by Raf Steel

Graphic design and photo retouching by Cedric Verhelst

Printed by Graphius, Oostakker

Published by Galerie St-John, Raf Steel, Emmy Steel

All texts copyright 2017 Galerie St-John, Raf Steel, Emmy Steel.

All photographs copyright 2017 Galerie St-John, Raf Steel, Emmy Steel, the artists.

Archival photographs from the collection of the authors and the Wolfers family

collection, used by kind permission.

All rights reserved, in all countries. No part of this publication may be reproduced

(including translation or adaptation), stored in a retrieval system or transmitted

in any form or by any means, electrical, mechanical or otherwise, without first

seeking the permission of the copyright owners and the publishers. Every effort

has been made to contact copyright holders of material reproduced in this

catalogue. Any omissions will be rectified in subsequent printings if notice is

given to the publisher.

Galerie St-John, Gent

st-john.be

info@st-john.be

Bij St-Jacobs 15A

T. +32-9/225.82.62

B–9000 Gent

f.com/galeriestjohn


www.st-john.be

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