December 03, 2019 2 min read

When Edward C. Moore visited Herter Brothers on April 26, 1879, he went to buy a cabinet.

What he got was design inspiration. The trip is relayed to us by Tiffany's lead silversmith, Charles T. Grosjean, in his diary.

Moore saw a 'beautiful cabinet carved with pomegranate & other fruit," thinking it, "suggestive of a new style of chasing for us."  Grosjean describes the carving: "It has the appearance of pierced work mt'd on a ground prepared, the upper surface is then carved in a flattish style."  Grosjean sketched the carving. (1)

Charles Grosjean sketch of Herter Brothers pomegranate carving, 1879.  Gorham Mfg. Co. Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.

Charles Grosjean sketch of Herter Brother's pomegranate carving, 1879. 
Gorham Mfg. Co. Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.

At that time, Herter Brothers had started the commission for William K. Vanderbilt's 5th Avenue mansion, and a cabinet such as this cabinet may have been Moore's inspiration.

Herter Brothers cabinet for William H. Vanderbilt, 1879-82, courtesy of Metmuem.org

Herter Brothers cabinet for William H. Vanderbilt, 1879-82,
courtesy Metmuseum.org

Here is a detailed look at the fluid pomegranate carving, including flowers, seeds, leaves, branches, and fruit:

Carved pomegranate panel on the Herter Brothers cabinet for William H. Vanderbilt, 1879-82, courtesy of Metmuem.org

Carved pomegranate panel on the Herter Brothers cabinet for
William H. Vanderbilt, 1879-82, courtesy of Metmuem.org

The pomegranate is an ancient fruit featured prominently in the mythology of many cultures. Typically, its meaning and symbolism related to the bounty of the harvest along with rebirth and the fertility associated with its copious number of seeds.

Grosjean's first notation of pomegranate decoration occurs on May 12, 1879:  "Waiter with copper pomegranate looked charming. Leaves and stem were etched & the ground flecked."   (2) They also experimented with red gold pomegranates which, "assumed the color of mottled red more like copper than gold..." (3)

Not long after, they made our pomegranate pitcher using copper pomegranates and a variety of mixed metals: gold seeds, various metals in insects and mokume butterflies.

Tiffany Antique Sterling Silver and Mixed Metals Pomegranate Water Pitcher, c. 1879

Tiffany Antique Sterling Silver and Mixed Metals Pomegranate Water Pitcher, c. 1879

While Grosjean's writings end about this date, he would continue to develop the pomegranate decoration for other uses, including the style of decoration that Edward C. Moore initially found so appealing.

Pomegranate band on Tiffany & Co. soup tureen.
Pomegranate band on Tiffany & Co. soup tureen.

During the 1880s, pomegranate style banding became popular on tableware, some of which were also hand chased all over with pomegranate decoration.  Our pitcher (above) is one of the earliest examples of their use of mixed metal pomegranate decoration.

Endnotes:

  1. Charles T. Grosjean, Diaries, Vol. 3, n.p., entry dated April 26, [1878], Gorham Manufacturing Company Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.
  2. Charles T. Grosjean, Diaries, Vol. 3, n.p., entry dated May 12.
  3. Charles T. Grosjean, Diaries, Vol. 3, n.p., entry dated June 11.

 


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