Erik Magnussen Designed for Gorham Modern Sterling & Turquoise Centerpiece Bowl, Providence, RI, 1928
One of the largest and most important examples of Erik Magnussen's work, this stunning centerpiece was made to go with the famous candlesticks in the Rhode Island School of Design Museum's collection. The large bowl is formed as a flower blossom. Gracefully shaped petals and splendid hammering to the surface make this a sparkling work of art.
The complex base is a beautiful structure of open rings. Modern design elements decorate the upper rings, and four pagoda-like structures house large, round pieces of turquoise and connect to the bottom. These ornamental stones add a wonderful, bold accent of color.
Gorham's records indicate the turquoise balls on this centerpiece and the matching candlesticks originally were part of an antique Chinese necklace. Incorporating antique Asian pieces into a larger work was a practice used in New York City during the 1920s by others as well, including silversmith Lebkuecher/ Eleder-Hickok and retailers Edward Farmer and Yamanaka. See here and here.
The matching pair of candlesticks for this centerpiece (model number "45") was given in 1991 to the Rhode Island School of Design by Textron, Inc., who purchased the Gorham Manufacturing Company in 1967 (see here). These candlesticks were exhibited in "Gorham Silver, Designing Brilliance, 1850-1970" at the Rhode Island School of Design and The Cincinatti Museum of art and are published in Elizabeth A. Williams, Gorham Silver, Designing Brilliance, 1850-1970, (Rizzoli Electa, 300 Park Avenue, S, NYC, NY, 2019), pp., 270.
Erik Magnussen was an important Danish silversmith hired by Gorham from 1925 to 29 to develop silver in the 'modern' style. During this brief period, he designed very creative and beautiful silver. He developed unique (like this bowl) pieces, limited production, and production pieces like the 'Modern American' line. When Gorham was marketing his silver, the American market was not ready for it, preferring conservative colonial-styled silver. Hence, Gorham had a great deal of trouble selling Magnussen's forward-looking silver.
As the great depression took hold, Gorham reduced retail prices and still did not sell much of Magnussen's silver. It is generally believed that much of Magnussen's silver was eventually destroyed by Gorham. For these reasons, today, American art deco silver is extremely rare, much appreciated, and highly sought after by collectors and museums. (See Gorham Silver by Charles Carpenter.)
This rare sterling silver centerpiece bowl is marked with Gorham's trademark, "GORHAM," "STERLING," Magnussen's trademark, the model number "44," and has scratch-marks "MC1872." It was gifted to Smith College and has been engraved underneath "Smith College Alumnae House 01063/ 09/27/89/ Sa" and was recently deaccessioned. It measures just over 16 inches in diameter by 7 inches high, weighs 75 troy ounces, and is in excellent antique condition, aside from one turquoise sphere having minor restoration.
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