Tiffany & Co Pair of 'George III' Sterling Silver Sauce Boats designed by Paulding Farnham and executed for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle
World Fairs, or Expositions, were opportunities for companies to define themselves to the world. This very rare pair of exceptional sauce boats was made by Tiffany & Company for the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. The slender, boat-shaped bodies have graceful, curved top edges with applied, gadrooned borders. Cast and applied decoration to the bodies is clearly inspired by Italian Renaissance design with bold swirling arabesques emanating from the bases.
An interesting feature is the matting of the area around the applied scroll work. This contrasts nicely with the shiny upper portion of the sauce boats giving the silver a 2-tone effect similar to turn of the century jewelry. Elegant loop handles are designed with reeding bunched between foliage folding over from the sides. The bases are made up of 2 parts held to the bodies with threaded pins and nuts. Unadorned, oval pedestals are draped with dramatic scrolling leaves resulting in impressive 3-dimensional displays, once again jewel-like in appearance. Beneath the spouts are lovely engraved 'C' monograms.
George Paulding Farnham first started working at Tiffany & Co in 1885 as a general assistant to Edward C. Moore in the design department. By the age of 28 he was 'regarded as Tiffany's young genius of jewelry design' and was put in charge of preparing roughly 200 designs for the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889.(1) His collection of enameled and jeweled gold orchids won him a gold medal and were 'singled out by the press as the most original and outstanding jewels shown at the exposition'.(2)
Celebrating the turn of the century, the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris was one of the greatest events of its time, holding the attendance record for World's Fairs with some 50 million visitors. 'Paulding Farnham's Tiffany & Co. displays of jewels and silver once again won the gold medals'.(3)
According to the New York Times, Tiffany & Co. won three gold metals including one for silver:
In their display here, particularly in gems and fine work in precious metal, they have thrown the gauntlet at the feet of the world, and in domestic silverware the most remarkable results are shown. The installation is conspicuous for its artistic beauty and and the elegant articles of luxury shown...(4)
Farnham's best silver designs of the period, such as these sauce boats, have a jewel-like luster and richness to them.
Tiffany & Co., in their archives, retain an image of the centerpiece bowl that matches these sauce boats. It is titled 'George III', acknowledging silver of the late 1780's and early 1790's with similar classical decoration. This important centerpiece bowl is now in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art. (Many thanks to Ulysses Grant Dietz, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts at the Newark Museum for this information.)
These stunning sauce boats are marked underneath 'TIFFANY & Co/ MAKERS/ STERLING SILVER/ 925-1000/ 18958-1229' along with the T&C stamp uniquely used for the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. They measure 7.75 inches across the spout and handle by 3 .75 inches high, weigh a combined 21.70 troy ounces and are in excellent condition with some of the nuts missing underneath (which does not effect the sauce boats).
John Loring, Paulding Farnham: Tiffany's Lost Genius, (New York: Abrams, 2000), p. 10.
Loring, p. 18
"Americans as Art Workmen: Substantial Recognition Shown by Paris Exposition Judges to Two New York Concerns" in The New York Times, September 18, 1900, p. 11.