Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Mexican Silver Part I: William Spratling

Spring is here and I'm back! I'm feeling bad that this is the first blog I have written since Valentine's Day. Sorry folks. My website at www.vandm.com is taking most of my attention, but it seems to be finally paying off-I'm starting to sell. Also, I have set up a Gabriel Gibson Decorative Arts Fan Page on Facebook so check it out.

For months I have wanted to post on Mexican jewelry, but just had a hard time finding a place to start. It is a huge subject with many important and interesting people.  I mulled it over and decided to begin at the beginning with one of the leaders of the Mexican silver renaissance-William Spratling. If you aren't familiar with Spratling you are in for a treat. He was an amazing artist with many passions. His silver designs are some of the best of the 20th century and he is widely believed to be the father of the Taxco silver renaissance. Here is Part I.  

The above pitcher was the first piece of Mexican silver I ever saw. It was several years ago in New York at The American Antiques Show in the booth of Stella Rubin. Stella is a top dealer in quilts and jewelry and a good friend. Her eye for great objects is unparalleled in the antiques world and I expect her to always have the best. This sparkling silver and rosewood pitcher stopped me in my tracks. Obviously not American, yet it somehow seemed American in its classic simplicity. And, those perfect proportions--I immediately knew I had to investigate the artist that designed this beautiful object. 

William Spratling (1900-1967) grew up in Alabama, went to college at Auburn, where he fell in love with architecture. He obtained a teaching post at Tulane in New Orleans and there he befriended the writer William Faulkner. 

Spratling in the apartment he shared with William Faulkner on St. Peter Street in New Orleans.

He made this sketch of Faulkner in 1925.

Spratling was a fine illustrator and published several books and many articles on local architecture. More than 100 illustrations were featured in Old Plantation Houses in Louisiana

Spratling took his first trip to Mexico in the mid twenties to see the architecture. He fell in love with the country, its people and their arts. He was drawn back to it for three summers  before moving there permanently in 1929. Spratling was lucky to arrive in Mexico at a time when Mexico was in transition. 

Next: Part II
Spratling in Mexican and his role in reviving the Mexican silver industry


  1. Hello,

    I came across your post about William Spratling, and I'm really eager to read the second part of the post! I work with jewelry and am discovering that much of the Mexican-/ Taxco-made silver pieces from that era have a "Spratling" influence to them, so it was great to discover your informative blog.

    Also, personally, I am a huge literary enthusiast, so to hear the Faulkner connection blew me away. Thanks for your great work!


  2. Thanks, Molly, for commenting. I, too am a huge Spratling fan and was also blown away by the Faulkner connection. Spratling was an amazing talent and his work is really important and still underappreciated. I will work on Part 2 this week and hope to get it online before the weekend.