Robert R. Jarvie Arts and Crafts Sterling Presentation Horse Trophy, Chicago, IL, 1913
Elegant and subtle lines convey the beauty of this wonderful presentation pitcher. Stunning hammering makes the body sparkle, and the handmade form is beautifully proportioned and executed. Two horizontal bands of geometric chased decoration are carefully designed to accommodate the attached 'C'-scroll handle and spout.
In decorative arts & crafts block lettering, it is inscribed between the bands:
South Shore Country Club Horse Show 1913
The underside is artistically engraved:
best team of horses ridden by ladies
Martin H. Foss
An article reviewing this equestrian event states: "There were a number of classes for 'riding teams' and one, with ladies riding, was cleverly won by Mr. Martin H. Foss' The Custard and The Pippin." (1)
Robert Riddle Jarvie of Chicago was the single most important American arts & crafts metalsmith. He started his career at the turn of the century, making copper and bronze floral-form candlesticks that have become iconic to the arts & crafts movement.
About 1910, he became a founding member of the Cliff Dweller's Club, a group of artistically minded Chicagoans, where he met the important Prairie school architect George Elmslie. With Cliff Dwellers' encouragement and patronage, Jarvie started fashioning objects in silver - producing some of the most beautiful arts and crafts silver ever made. Many of his rare pieces are institutionally owned (see the Art Institute of Chicago's website).
Most of the silver produced in his shop dates from 1912 to 1914, and it is rare to find pieces as exciting as this pitcher. During this brief period, he employed talented artisan silversmiths such as John Petterson, but his most crucial collaborator may have been architect George Elmslie. Jarvie's relationship with Elmslie was close, Elmslie's wife even possibly working in Jarvie's shop. (2)
George Elmslie worked for the famous Chicago architect Louis Sullivan as his principal draftsman (and by many accounts practically running the firm). Going out on his own as a partner in Purcell and Elmslie in 1907, Elmslie established himself as a vital Prairie school architect, second only to Frank Lloyd Wright. The motif used in the chased decoration of the pitcher can be found in Elmslie's designs.
Jarvie claimed most Jarvie Shop designs were his own, although there are clear connections to Elmslie's designs. In 1913 at the 12th annual arts & crafts exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, Jarvie also gave design credit to Theodora Hayes, who became a commercial designer in Chicago. Little is known of her design work today.
Robert Jarvie was of Scottish descent. The comfortable familiarity between the decoration on this pitcher and that of designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow is a wonderful example of the collaborative nature of the world-wide arts & crafts movement, which can also be seen in designs from the secessionist movement in Vienna.
Robert Jarvie's silver rarely comes on the market today, and pieces of this quality are now primarily in institutional collections. This beautiful pitcher is marked 'Jarvie/ STERLING/ 2005.' It measures 7.75 inches across the handle and spout by 10 inches high, weighs 29.40 troy ounces and is in very good/ excellent antique condition.
M. K. Richards, "The South Shore Country Club Horse Show" in The Spur, August 1913, (New York: George Ford Morris), p. 18.
W. Scott Braznell , "Catalog Entry 140" in The Art that is Life: The Arts & Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920, Wendy Kaplan, Ed., (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1987), p. 278 and conversations with the author.
12th Annual Exhibition of Art Craft and Original Designs for Decorations October Seventh to October Thirty-First, MDCCCCIII, (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1913), n.p.
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