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Henry Petzal (German)

Birth Place: Berlin, Germany


Who was silversmith Henry Petzal?

Henry Petzal was a German-born American who throughout much of the second half of the 20th century created some of the best hand-made silver and brass pieces in the world. Petzal was an exacting artist who insisted on designing and hand-raising every silver piece himself. That dedication led to a large following among connoisseurs of silversmithing. While the artist himself was something of a recluse, many of Petzal’s pieces live on today in collections around the world. 

Henry Petzal may not have been a household name, but his silver is in some of the most prestigious collections in the world. His work has been exhibited and collected by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Chicago Museum of Fine Arts, the Silversmith’s Museum in London as well as the Mingei Museum in San Diego. Perhaps most famously, he mounted a solo exhibition at the Currier Gallery of Art in 1984.

What kind of art does Henry Petzal make?

Henry Petzal made beautiful, hand-crafted silver pieces that owed much to Chinese ceramics, an unusual influence that Petzal came back to time and time again. This is evident so much in his work that Petzal’s silver will be forever associated with this unlikely pairing. Petzal created modern interpretations of classic Chinese pottery styles, often using silver and semi-precious stones for finials. He was extremely adept at creating three-dimensional images, often adding great detail to leafy candlesticks or cat forms. He created ninety different forms in his lifetime, all numbered and produced on commission. 

How did silversmith Henry Petzal get started?

Henry Petzal was born in Berlin but didn’t come to silversmithing until much later in life. He immigrated to the United States in 1935, finding refuge from the coming world war. He settled in Shrewsbury, New Jersey where he worked as a successful executive in textiles for many years. While pursuing silversmithing as a hobby prior to his impending retirement, Petzal realized he had a lot of natural talent for this art form. He learned from the greats Adda Husted Andersen, Rudolph Schumacher, and William Seitz at the YMCA on Fiftieth Street in New York City. 

How much is Henry Petzal silver worth?

Henry Petzal’s work is extremely hard to find, thanks in large part to it being hand-raised, one-of-a-kind and unique. The artist never made more than 8 examples of any form. That means that Henry Petzal silver can be worth anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands for in-demand pieces. A covered bowl by Henry Petzal sold for $4,200 on December 15th, 2012. 

Where to buy Henry Petzal silver for sale?

See the works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on the artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value Henry Petzal silver?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services Department.

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