GHENT, BELGIUM.- The Design Museum opened the exhibit Louis, Philippe & Marcel Wolfers: Masters in silver through April 9, 2007. This exhibition is a retrospective of the works of the renowned Wolfers firm, which owes its reputation mainly to Philippe's artistic production. In addition to its central figures Louis, Philippe and Marcel, the exhibition also highlights other artists who worked in association with this firm. Their contribution to this enterprise and their artistic influence is explained.
Strategically situated on fertile soil at the crossroads of Western Europe, Belgium has enjoyed economic prosperity, artistic creativity and a strong tradition of skilled craftsmanship. It is a small country enriched by the interweaving of different ethnicities and cultures--a true melting pot of populations. Surrounded for centuries by France, Germany, the Netherlands and the North Sea, this slice of land was highly coveted by its neighbors and it was not until 1831 that it achieved true political independence. Since then, successful industrial development has brought prosperity to an expanding middle class that was already much in evidence during the Belle Époque. The words of the Belgian singer, Jacques Brel Cétait au temps où Bruxelles Brussel ait
, imply that people of the Brussels middle class were wealthy, prosperous and enjoyed life at that time.
Wolfers was one of the most famous Belgian silversmith companies of the 19th century, its reputation comparable to those of Emile Puiforcat, Odiot or Aucoc in Paris, Garrard in London, and Tiffany or Gorham in America.
In the first half of the 19th century, three young German brothers, silversmiths Edouard, Guillaume and Louis Wolfers established two workshops in Brussels. In 1852, Louis Wolfers (1820-1892) registered his maker's mark, consisting of a letter W above a boar's head. His workshop was situated at 23 rue des Longs Chariots.
In 1858, he married Henriette Ruthenburg who contributed to the development of the firm. They took part in many different exhibitions and competitions and, by 1868, the firm was achieving financial success.
After serving apprenticeships, their three sons, Philippe, Max and Robert were sent to France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria to prospect for business. As a result, the Wolfers firm became associated with Bonnebacker of Amsterdam, P. Kirscher in Düsseldorf, Goldschmidt in Köln, and Friedlander in Berlin. This explains why some German assay and retailers marks are punched with Wolfers marks.