Story: Teutenberg, Ferdinand Anton Nicolaus

Page 1: Biography

Teutenberg, Ferdinand Anton Nicolaus

1840–1933

Stonemason, carver, engraver, medallist, jeweller

This biography was written by J. B. Duncan and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 2, 1993

Ferdinand Anton Nicolaus Teutenberg was born in Hüsten (Neheim-Hüsten), Westphalia, Germany, on 4 December 1840, the son of Franziska Koppeins and her husband, Ludwig Teutenberg, a gunsmith to King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia. Anton (as he was known) learned his trade as an engraver with his father, and served two years as a military conscript. His brother Frederick, said to have been a mercenary who travelled to New Zealand with Gustavus von Tempsky, encouraged him to leave Europe for the South Pacific. On 11 March 1866 Anton, with his sisters, Ida and Franziska, and a nephew, Carl Jansen, left Hüsten for England and New Zealand. They arrived at Auckland on the Rob Roy on 19 July.

Soon after his arrival Teutenberg received a commission to carve heads for the Supreme Court building being erected under the supervision of architect Edward Rumsey. He had carved a piece of filigree woodwork for the captain of the Rob Roy, who had shown this work to Rumsey. For 15s. a day he carved six major heads in stone – a medium he had never before handled – and a number of gargoyles, along with a series of wooden heads for the gallery of the court room. He was next invited to sculpt heads for the post office building in Shortland Street, but now asked and received 20s. a day. He carved 11 heads in stone, five of them Maori, and a line of corbels showing the spread of the British Empire.

Other buildings in Auckland for which Teutenberg received commissions were the Pitt Street Wesleyan Church, originally opened in 1866, for which he executed about 20 woodcarvings; St John's Wesleyan Church, Ponsonby (1882), where he carved filigree window decorations, an elaborate pulpit and a reredos; and the Bank of New South Wales in Queen Street (1884), whose 15 lions' heads were sculpted in stone by Teutenberg. A statue of Britannia for the South British Insurance Company is also attributed to him, as is woodwork in the old Waiwera Hotel.

The greater proportion of Teutenberg's surviving work, however, is as a medallist. From July 1867 he shared business premises with his brother Karl, a gunmaker, in Wellesley Street East. They later advertised as A. & K. Teutenberg, 'Engravers, Carvers, Gunmakers, and Naturalists', offering to make stamps, dies and presses quickly and in superior style. Teutenberg's best-known piece is the United Fire Brigades' Association of New Zealand's five-year long-service medal in silver, a contract won in 1887 against competition from an English medallist. This was one of a number of fire service medals and pieces of regalia he produced. Other work included chemists' seals and goldmine seals (ingot stamps); agricultural society, art society and other prize medals; company seals; and commemorative medals for events such as the visit of the duke of Edinburgh to New Zealand in 1869, the New Zealand jubilee in 1890, Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee military tournament of 1897, and the Canterbury jubilee in 1900. Of perhaps greatest interest is a medal in copper which marks the visit to New Zealand in 1875 of the Gazelle, a German warship which was on a world oceanographic survey. The medal, which Teutenberg made at his own expense and presented to each member of the crew, featured a Maori head on the reverse and a German legend on the obverse.

Teutenberg cut an octagonal halfpenny postal embossing die in 1900, and also made three horse-tram tokens. Least known of his works are his jewellery pieces. Several of these are in the possession of his family, and a pair of silver and gold napkin rings are in the collection of the Auckland Museum. About 1915 Teutenberg sold his business to W. H. Worrall, a manufacturing jeweller. His interests, in addition to his professional work, included insects (which he collected with Karl), pencil sketching and woodworking. He worked with Anton Seuffert, assisting with inlays for some of Seuffert's fine furniture pieces.

Anton Teutenberg had married German-born Nannchen Nicolai at Auckland on 28 September 1881, and they had three sons. He was naturalised on 3 November 1908. Teutenberg died at Auckland on 2 October 1933, aged 92, 13 years after Nannchen, who died on 1 February 1920.

As an engraver and medallist Teutenberg was without peer in New Zealand. His reliefs are always high, his strikings sharp, and his hand engraving remarkable in its fineness and beauty. As a sculptor he must be especially admired. His heads are lifelike and recognisable; his gargoyles beautifully grotesque. A large collection of material from his workshop, including dies, waxes, tools and test strikes, was presented in the 1960s to the Numismatic Society of Auckland.

How to cite this page:

J. B. Duncan. 'Teutenberg, Ferdinand Anton Nicolaus', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/2t37/teutenberg-ferdinand-anton-nicolaus (accessed 26 April 2017)