Madeleine Turner (often erroneously spelled Madeline Turner) was an extremely under-appreciated mid-century New York jeweler who worked for Georg Jensen USA, and produced a wide range of lovely and beautifully-made jewelry.
Brooch, silver, in the form of a lifelike very dimensional fish with a tall triangular dorsal fin and a long trailing swallowtail.† There are two long curving wires behind the fish that spiral around beneath it like waves, and continue to the top of the pin, where one has three silver dome-form beads.† 2-3/8" W and 2-7/8" H.† Marked: AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] HANDWROUGHT / STERLING
Turner was one of the artisans hired by Frederik Lunning, who in the 1920s had contracted with Royal Copenhagen in Denmark for the US rights to sell Georg Jensen objects.† Lunning subsequently opened a retail Jensen shop first on New York's 57th Street, and later on Fifth Avenue.† However, with the onset of World War II, Lunning was unable to obtain European Jensen items.† Silver was scarce, and the threat of marauding U-boats brought overseas shipments to a halt.† So Lunning hired several American craftsmen and sold their pieces marked JENSEN USA.
The roster of these craftsmen is somewhat disputed.† It's clear that Alphonse La Paglia, Joan Polsdorfer (JoPol), Laurence Foss, and Madeleine Turner produced JENSEN USA items.† The pin below is marked with both Turner and Jensen stamps:
Brooch, in the form of a convex flower pot with a chased, dimensional five-petal blossom and two long curving pointed leaves.† Signed both with Turner stamp and Jensen stamp.† 2-5/8" L and 1-3/16" W.† Marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] HANDWROUGHT / STERLING / 164 and GEORG JENSEN INC. / U.S.A. / STERLING / 16
According to Janet Drucker's fine "Georg Jensen / A Tradition of Splendid Silver" book (page 52):
"When Georg Jensen silver from Copenhagen again became available after the war, Lunning acquired Jensen silver but continued to market the broad range of luxury goods as well. In the catalogue for 1947, there are 71 pages of goods, but the first two pages only contain designs and hollowware by Georg Jensen, Johan Rohde, Sigvard Bernadotte and others, and they are labelled 'Imported Silver.' In the catalogue's jewelry section, text accompanying the items refers to 'old favorites... and the introduction of the work of several talented young newcomers whose craftsmanship so obviously and definitely expresses the feeling in jewelry we are constantly seeking...some of the new names are: Bjarne Meyer, Maria Regnier, Anna Halasi, A. LaPaglia, M. Cusick and others.' These are names of American designers, specifically contracted to produce jewelry with similar motifs to Georg Jensen jewelry and hollowware."
It's possible that Bjarne Meyer was the artisan who also did work for Gorham and signed most items HANDWROUGHT BY BJARNE.† According to an online post by Janet Drucker, William DeMatteo also worked for Jensen USA.† In a related online note, Scott Martin adds another Jensen USA maker -- Walter J. Myer.† And from the same forum, according to Ulysses Dietz, Senior Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts at the Newark Museum, Trinac Silversmiths in Brooklyn also created silver for Jensen, USA.†
After the war, the Jensen headquarters in Denmark expressed their displeasure that "non-genuine" items were being sold as Jensen pieces, and all "Jensen USA" production ceased in 1950.† We are devotees of the objects produced during this brief period, both because we admire their design, beauty, and craftsmanship, and because we focus on items made in the US.
Bar pin, handwrought sterling silver with central, oval turquoise cabochon with fine, saw pierced scroll designs on either side of stone.† Nicely done.† 1/2" H and 1-7/8" W.† Marked:† [M. TURNER logo] HANDMADE STERLING
Little is known about Madeleine Turner.† An article was published about her in a 1947 issue of Craft Horizons, but it focused on the properties of different metals and included no biographical information.† A sample:
"One of the most talented and versatile of modern jewelry craftsmen is Miss Madeleine Turner who has become widely known as a successful designer, creator, and teacher. Miss Turner, a practical as well as a sensitive artist, is keenly aware of the importance of choosing the most appropriate medium for the execution of a particular idea. She also believes that the intrinsic beauty of each substance should be considered as a part of the design and never obliterated by unsuitable or over-elaborate treatment. By considering the actual surface and texture of a medium as part of the composition she believes that the craftsman can achieve finer design and a more lastingly beautiful object."
The article did, however, have a photo:
It also included several examples of her work, in silver, gold, and platinum:
"Two charming pins in gold, platinum and stones designed and executed by Miss Turner which show the possibilities in such a use of metal."
"Pin in silver with part of the design oxidized to bring out certain salient features. An interesting treatment."
"These gold pins show how this metal responds to more intricate and detailed treatment and chasing."
The article included one other photo, of a slender silver tulip pin, commenting that "this silver pin shows how the quality of silver lends itself to a clearer outline and a starker design than does gold."† We have this pin as part of a set:
Set, brooch and earrings, three (3) pieces.† Brooch is tall, in the form of a tulip on a long curving stem on one side, and a† long tapering leaf on the other, joined at the top and bottom and forming a harp shape.† Tulip tips bend outward.† Screwback earrings have smaller version of the tulip blossom behind a curving pointed leaf.† Brooch: 3-3/16" L and 15/16" W.† Earrings: 15/16" L and 5/8" W.† Brooch marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] HANDWROUGHT / STERLING.† One earring marked: AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo repeated twice].† Other earring marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo repeated twice] / STERLING
Two other sets of Turner earrings:
Earrings, pair (2), round, large, Screw back.† Applied pointed five-petal flower with chased details and bead in center, on oxidized concave background.† (Also pictured on page 250 of Modernist Jewelry 1930-1960, Marbeth Schon.)† 7/8" round.† Marked:† [M. TURNER logo] HANDMADE / STERLING / 48
Earrings, pair (2), round, large, Screw back.† Applied pointed five-petal flower with chased details and bead in center, on oxidized concave background.† 15/16" W.† Marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] HANDWROUGHT / STERLING / 48
Turner made extensive use of living creatures as themes.† Apart from the horses and fish above, she also created jewelry in the form of a complex butterfly, and seagulls in various poses.† The butterfly is particularly large and impressive in person:
Brooch, large, slightly convex, in the form of a butterfly, with a tapering body and segmented head, looping antennae, and detailed delicately curved, intricately pierced and worked wings with chased scalloped edges.† 3-1/8" W and 2-1/2" H.† Marked:† M. TURNER / HANDMADE /† STERLING / USA
Brooch, silver, large, in the form of a lifelike bird, probably a seagull, with outstretched wings spread to the side in a T-shape.† 3-1/4" W and 1-3/8" H.† Marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] / T7 / HANDWROUGHT / STERLING
Brooches, pair (2), silver, in the form of a lifelike bird, probably a seagull, with spread wings above.† 2-1/4" H and 2" W.† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] HANDWROUGHT / STERLING / T8
Another Turner theme was flowers and leaves.† In addition to the floral earrings, the tulip set, and flowerpot above, she produced interesting pins with and without stones.† Some are very deco-inspired.† Others are stylized.† One uses mixed metals, a silver body for a leaf and a copper wire for the stem.
Brooch, silver, Deco-like, repoussť with chased details, with three flower petals, one of which become a stylized curving central pistil on the top left, with a small leaf below, and a large leaf on the right.† Many thin cutouts between petals, stem and leaves.† 2-5/16" W and 1-15/16" H.† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] HANDWROUGHT / STERLING / 156
Brooch, large, in the form of a large slightly convex three-petal flower with chased parallel lines on the petals and centering a round cabochon bezel-set red coral stone, with a large pointed curving leaf above that has lightly but extensively chased veins and a prominent curving stem.† 2-1/4" W and 2-3/8" H.† Marked:† M. TURNER / HANDMADE /† STERLING / USA / 141
Brooch, silver, with gold wash and goldstone stone (glass fused with copper or copper salts).† Seven-petal flower centering oval bezel-set cabochon orange flecked stone, with two long pointed chased leaves curving around to the side.† Pierced details.† 2" W and 1-1/2" H.† Marked:† [M. TURNER logo] HANDMADE / STERLING / 188 [or 088]
Brooch, round, in the form of a flower with twelve rounded petals, with a short applied worked wire radiating from the center at the edge of each, centering a round bezel-set open-back cabochon green jade or glass stone.† 1-7/8" round.† Marked:† [M. TURNER logo] / STERLING
Brooch, silver, large, round wire frame with two large applied chased cutout flower blossoms and two serrated leaves with prominent central vein made from the wire used on the frame that curves around.† 2-3/8" W and 2-1/2" H.† Marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] HANDWROUGHT / STERLING / 7717
Brooch, tall, in the form of a curving stylized silver leaf with an applied copper stem and vein that curls around at the end into a spiral.† 2-1/2" W and 1-3/16" H.† Marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] / HANDWROUGHT / STERLING / X10
Brooch, silver, round, three lobed, concave, centering silver dome with rope-twist wire border.† Similar to Turner pin with ceramic angel insert. 1-11/16" round.† Marked:† [M. TURNER logo] HANDMADE / STERLING
Brooch, large, slightly convex, in the form of a gently curving wheat stalk with chased and pierced seeds/leaves and a prominent curved central vein.† 3" L and 1" W.† Marked:† M. TURNER / HANDMADE /† STERLING
One final example is a necklace with stylized foliate elements.† We've seen a lot of pins, but only one necklace:
Necklace, silver, composed of six inter-connected floriform links attached to chain and arranged so that they come to a point at the bottom.† Links are shaped like stylized leaves and flowers with silver beads.† Chain is somewhat complex and heavy.† 17" L and 2" W at widest point.† Marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] / HANDWROUGHT / STERLING
One other Turner piece with a floral theme is a brooch with a ceramic insert.† We've seen many examples of handmade silver jewelry with such centers, notably those by Lilian R. Foster, who used small ceramic plaques bearing the "Karlsruhe" mark of Majolika Manufaktur Karlsruhe, a German pottery maker founded in 1901.
Pin, silver, by Lillian R. Foster centering large rectangular bezel-set enameled insert with rounded corners in beige, brown, yellow and blue, with crackalure surface.† Insert shows large bird in flight over distant mountains.† 1-7/8" W and 1-3/8" H.† Marked:† L. R. FOSTER
Brooch, square/diamond-shaped, in the form of a stylized four-petal flower with pierced details, centering a round red glazed ceramic insert with a white and green flower and blue dots.† Some crazing in the glaze.† 2-3/16" H and 2-3/16" W.† Marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] / HANDWROUGHT / STERLING / T4
Jo Michels pin (left) and Madeline Turner pin (right) with similar ceramic inserts.† The Turner pin (right) is 1-3/4" W and is marked AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] HANDWROUGHT / STERLING / 150.† The Michels pin is 1-9/16" W and is marked JO MICHELS / STERLING
Finally, two interesting Turner pins with a sea motif.† She obviously liked fish -- the fish pin above is a real masterpiece.† The fish used below are more whimsical.† And the sailboat is very nicely done as well, with a simple form, balanced convex sails, and a wavy square wire ocean or lake surface:
Brooch, silver, in the form of a lifelike kneeling child holding one fish above his head and cradling another under his arm.† Chased details.† 2-5/16" H and 1-1/8" W.† Marked:† AN ORIGINAL / [M. TURNER logo] HANDWROUGHT / STERLING
Brooch, large, in the form of a large sailboat with a small convex sail in front and a larger convex one in back, on stylized waves made from a curving wire with a spiral at the end.† 2-3/4" H and 2-1/8" W.† Marked:† M. TURNER / HANDMADE /† STERLING / USA / 211
Madeleine Turner was part of a seminal "modern handmade jewelry" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1946, along with contemporaries such as Anni Albers, Ward Bennett, Harry Bertoia, Alexander Calder, Hurst and Kingsbury, Adda Husted-Anderson, Jacques Lipchitz, Paul A. Lobel, and Margaret de Patta.† Most craftsmen in the show, including Turner, were listed as being from New York City.† The museum announced it with the following teaser:
"In its new exhibition Modern Handmade Jewelry, opening Wednesday, September 18, 1946, the Museum of Modern Art shows that today's jewelry need be neither the princely luxury of precious stones and metals nor the dubious glitter of production-line gadgets sometimes appropriately referred to as 'junk jewelry.' ... The types of pieces shown include bracelets, necklaces, pins, earrings, belt buckles, rings and pendants, but the forms are seldom conventional even when the material is as familiar as silver. Free forms are used and designs are usually abstract."
The show's curator, Jane Sabersky, added:
"Jewelry, once the especial possession of kings and princes, has always been thought of as luxury. As leaders of styles and tastes, they commissioned the individual craftsman. Jewelry today is available to a far greater public through mass production.
"Today the individual artist or craftsman who executed the precious object especially for his patron has gradually been supplanted by the wholesale manufacturer. Eager for the fruits of large-scale production, the manufacturer clings to a 19th century pride in the ability of his machines to reproduce anything and everything. Such an attitude brings in its wake an irreverance [sic] toward individual craftsmanship, a lack of appreciation of materials as such, and discourages to a large degree any creative designing. The market thus abounds with highly-polished, over burdened gadgets, hardly to be called designs.
"To call attention to the fact that modern jewelry need not be thought of exclusively in terms of either expensive precious jewels or the mass-produced object, this exhibition presents a selection of handmade jewelry of contemporary design. Although excellent designs are sometimes to be found among mass-produced 'costume jewelry,' in general it is the individual craftsman or artist, less restricted by commercial standards, who makes new contributions to the art. The exhibition has therefore been confined to the work of individuals though it does not represent a complete survey of the work of such designers throughout the United States but has been selected from sources accessible to the Museum.
"No restrictions were followed with regard to material except that the high cost of insuring precious jewels in a traveling exhibition dictated their omission. Our criterion of selection was simply: those designs which showed that the artist had considered the characteristics of the materials used and made us aware of their intrinsic beauty in contemporary terms."
Turner used two basic sets of marks.† One used the term "handmade" and the other "handwrought."† The handmade pieces sometimes had a "USA" mark as well.† This may have had some relationship to her years at Jensen.
Handmade USA mark:
Handmade USA mark:
It's always surprising to find such an accomplished body of work without much of a historical trail of information about the maker.† Unfortunately, Turner is just one of dozens like this, and we're fortunate to have found the research material used above.