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Square compact

about 1940–50
Maria Regnier (American, born in Hungary, 1901 - 1994)


Object Place: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Dimensions

0.95 x 6.35 x 6.35 cm (3/8 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

1988.146

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The square compact is cut from sheet silver and soldered to form a shallow box. Two rows of five circular disks are chased along the center of the lid and proceed from the hinge to the front opening.
The compact possesses a streamlined quality, characteristic of mid-20th century design.


As a young woman, Hungarian-born and convent-educated Maria Regnier immigrated to the United States with her family, settling in Saint Louis, Missouri. While studying for her bachelor’s degree at Washington University, Regnier took her first classes in metalwork and jewelry, studying with Ruth Barry and Noemi Madeline Walsh. In the summer of 1935, she studied with Sidney Rollins at the Rhode Island School of Design, and, in the summer of 1939, she completed her silversmithing courses at the Dixon School in New York, where she worked under Swedish designer Alex Hammer.
By 1945 Regnier had found a market for her work in fine midwestern shops, such as the Warfield Shops and Lockhart’s in St. Louis, Marshall Field’s in Chicago, and Swanson’s in Kansas City. Her talents were frequently noted in local and national newspapers. By 1948 her clients included additional retailers from both coasts, including Georg Jensen, Inc., Gump’s, and Nieman-Marcus. Several solo exhibitions on the East Coast followed, including those at the Montclair Art Museum in 1949 and at Leah K. Curtiss Gallery in New York City in 1950. She also participated in shows appealing to a broader audience, such as the “Wichita Nationals” in 1946 and an exhibition on American church silver at the Museum of the Cranbrook Academy in 1952.
The streamlined appearance of her designs belies their time-consuming fabrication by hand. Regnier’s silver often featured minimal decoration; many pieces are ornamented solely by planishing marks and the occasional bold applied monogram, circle pattern, or floral design, as seen on two compacts from about 1940 – 50 (cat. nos. 357 – 58). She explained: “I think that the beauty and glowing warmth of silver, whether in flat ware or hollow ware, is most evident when it is hand-crafted. I like simplicity but not the fancy nor gingerbread style of the Victorian era.”
Regnier produced dinner services, including place settings and plates for special clients; she also fashioned desk and home accessories that recall an age of cigarettes, mixed drinks, and rotary telephones. An energetic woman who took her craft seriously, she was dismissive of newspaper articles that focused solely on her sex and diminutive size.
Despite the acclaim she received in the 1940s and 1950s, Regnier’s work did not enter museum collections until later in her life. The Museum of Fine Arts owns a group of Regnier’s jewelry in addition to the tea service and two compacts included in this catalogue.

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.

Inscription

None.

Markings

“MR” conjoined within a square, and “HAND [largely effaced] WROUGHT / STERLING” in incuse sans-serif letters struck on underside.

Provenance

The artist, Maria Regnier, Arkansas; February 24, 1988, gift of the artist to the MFA.

Credit Line

Gift of Maria Regnier