George E. Germer Arts & Crafts Sterling and Semi-precious Stones Altar Cross, Mason, NH, c. 1929, exhibited at The Boston Tercentenary Fine Arts Show, 1930
This is an exceedingly rare one of a kind object of exceptional quality and beauty. The sterling hand-raised large altar cross on plinth is covered in beautiful gilding. While the back of the cross is undecorated, the stunning front displays swirling hand-chased foliage.
A series of inset semi-precious stones of green and red hues decorate the cross. Groups of three stones represent flowers but are also symbolic of the Trinity. Larger red stones are inset into chased flowers at the top and the ends of the cross. The flower at the base of the cross uses a green stone. A large, oval, red stone is held in place under a pierced Christogram.
The magnificent base is an extraordinary example of silversmithing. Its sloping neck with tapered, chamfered corners rises from its pedestal base. Simple incised lines outline the panels of the body. Small incised leaves decorate the corners of the upper platform where the cross screws into the base.
The front of the base displays a repousséd oval with a fleur-de-lis - a symbol of the Trinity and the Holy Mother Saint Mary. The back is undecorated, and the two sides have repousséd ovals representing the evangelist Saint John on one side and Saint Mary on the other.
George Earnest Germer designed and executed this piece to be his very finest work. He made relatively few pieces during his career. Most are institutionally owned, and his work rarely appears on the market.
This altar cross is one of Germer's most famous pieces. During his lifetime it was published and exhibited to great acclaim, including at the Boston Tercentenary Fine Arts Show in 1930 when it won him both a jury medal and popular award.
Germer immigrated from Germany in 1893 as a highly skilled silversmith and chaser. He worked for Tiffany as a chaser from 1893, then William B. Durgin in Concord, NH, until he left for Gorham about 1903. In Providence, he chased Martelé masterpieces including an alms dish exhibited at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.
In 1912, he left Gorham to set up shop in Boston where he began his independent career. About 1917, he moved to Mason, New Hampshire, where he created masterpieces in his old farmhouse until his death in 1936. In 1927 - the same year he exhibited "The Supper at Emmaus" ciborium at theirTricennial Exhibition- he was awarded the title of "medalist," the highest honor bestowed by the Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston.
During his career, Germer only produced two or three pieces a year. Typically, they were commissioned by institutions and designed by architects. These pieces rarely come on the market and examples that are both designed and executed by him are even rarer.
For a fuller biography of Germer, see here.
We are fortunate to be able to offer this remarkable altar cross from St John's Memorial Chapel at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Provenance: Estate of the Artist Florence S. Dustin, Cambridge, Massachusetts Episcopal Divinity School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Episcopal Divinity School was formerly the Episcopal Theological School founded in 1867 in Cambridge; it changed its name in 1974 when it combined with the Philadelphia Divinity School which was founded in 1857. In 2018, the school merged with the Union Theological Seminary in New York City and the campus was acquired by Leslie University. For more history of the school, see here.
Boston Tercentenary Fine Arts and Crafts Exhibition, 1930:
Winner - Jury Medal for Ecclesiastical Art
Winner - Popular Award (2nd Place) for Silver
Exhibition of Ecclesiastical Art, 1929: Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston
Boston Tercentenary Fine Arts and Crafts Exhibition, 1930: Horticulture Hall, Boston Winner of Jury Medal for Ecclesiastical Art Winner of Popular Award (2nd Place) for Silver
Henry P. Macomber, "The Silversmiths of New England" inThe American Magazine of Art, October 1932, Vol. 25, No. 4, p. 214.
"Exhibition Here of Ecclesiastical Art" in theBoston Globe, January 26, 1929, p. 13.
"An Assemblage of Ecclesiastical Objects" in theBoston Herald, June 23, 1929, p. 73.
Boston Tercentenary Fine Arts and Crafts Exhibition, (Boston: City of Boston Printing Department, 1930), Catalog No. 483-140, p. 27
This incredible work of art is marked underneath 'DES & MADE BY GEORGE E. GERMER/ STERLING/ HANDWROUGHT.' It measures just shy of two feet tall, weighs 55.05 troy ounces and is in very good antique condition, with light wear to some of the gilding on the chased leaves and limited spot restoration to the gilding on the base and back.