The Pomfret Chapel Altar Vases: Pair of American Sterling Silver and Gold Altar Vases, Arthur J. Stone and Herbert Taylor, Gardner, MA, 1915
Hexagonally paneled with gold inlay and onlay, these gothic and medieval inspired vases are probably the finest silver ever created by Arthur Stone's shop.
With gold onlay backgrounds, the necks are chased in stylized relief 'COME BEFORE HIS PRESENCE WITH A SONG' on one and 'ENTER INTO HIS GATES WITH THANKSGIVING' on the other. (Both are from 100th psalm in the traditional Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer.)
On the shoulders, panels of deeply chased silver with gold inlay form designs of trefoils, grape bunches, vines and leaves. The grapes flow over the panel borders with a stimulating trompe l'oeil effect.
Under this, a horizontal band features interspersed trefoils and ivy leaves all on a gold onlay background. The side panels are finished with line chased borders and a chased ivy leaf and berries, once again on gold onlay backgrounds, at the upper corners. A fine stepped foot completes the vases.
These stunning and important vases measure 9.875 inches high by 8.25 inches in diameter at the shoulder and weigh a combined 124 troy ounces. They are marked underneath with Stone's trademark, 'STERLING', 'T' for craftsman Herbert Taylor and engraved 'Pomfret School Chapel, 1915'. They are in very good antique condition with minor losses to the gold.
Arthur J. Stone ran the preeminent arts & crafts silver shop in New England, possibly the country. Items were hand made using traditional silversmithing techniques. An innovator, Stone let the other masters who worked for him sign the items they made. These vases were raised by Herbert Taylor, Stone's 'right hand man' and possibly the most accomplished silversmith who worked for Stone. Taylor was one of only eight silversmiths to win the award of 'Medalist', the highest honor for craft bestowed by the Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston. (Stone was the first silversmith to win the award.)
The decoration was executed by Arthur Stone himself. One of the most talented chasers of his era, Stone gained the reputation of the 'dean of silversmiths'. The rarest and very best silver from his shop included gold. The techniques of gold inlay and onlay are highly difficult to accomplish successfully; Stone did as little work with gold as he could and charged highly for it when he did. These vases include more applied gold decoration than any other pieces his shop ever produced.
Stone's most important commissioned work was ecclesiastical (including silver for Christ Church in Cranbrook (MI), Trinity Church, Kings Chapel and the Church of the Advent, all in Boston). Unlike most of these ecclesiastical pieces which were designed by chapel architects and others, the extraordinary Pomfret Chapel Vases were designed by Stone himself. For that reason alone they may be the most important objects ever created by his shop.
The design process is documented in the Arthur J. Stone Workshop Papers in the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution. Including a pencil sketch of the Pomfret altar with design ideas(1) and a photograph of the only known wax model by Stone's shop(2), the design evolves into the current form. Also preserved in the archives are some of Stone's original templates for the chased work.(3) Stone did design work for candlesticks for the chapel, but they were never executed.(4)
The Clark family of Philadelphia owned the important investment banking and stock brokerage firm, E. W. Clark & Co., among other ventures that included real estate and railroads. They were one of the founding families of the Pomfret School in Pomfret, CT.
After the 1906 death of Pomfret alumni George Newhall Clark, his parents Edward & Lydia Clark donated $135 ,000.00 to build a chapel at the school in his memory.(5) Based on English 'Norman' design, it was made entirely of stone from a local farm.(6) The Clarks commissioned these vases from Stone for the altar in 1914.(7)
Famous for his yachting pursuits, Edward Clark was a member of the New York Yacht Club and the Corinthian Yacht Club of Philadelphia (where he served as commodore for a period).(8)
He purchased the sloop Resolute after its America's Cup victory in 1920.(9) In 1913 and 1914, the commodores of the Eastern Yacht Club of Marblehead, MA, commissioned important yachting trophies from Stone(10) and it is likely that the Clarks knew of Stone and his work through these connections.(11)
Masterpieces of this quality by Arthur J. Stone have never been on the market. Aside from the abundance of gold onlay, there are nearly 1400 individual pieces of inlaid gold. These extraordinary sterling and gold vases represent the highest caliber of design and execution by Arthur Stone and the finest items from his shop ever offered for sale.
"Arthur J. Stone 1847-1938: Designer and Silversmith", Cat. No. 108.
"Inspiring Reform: Boston's Arts and Crafts Movement", Cat. No. 51.
Elenita C. Chickering, Arthur J. Stone 1847-1938: Designer and Silversmith, (Boston: the Boston Athenaeum, 1994), pp. 86 & 108.
Marilee B. Meyer, Inspiring Reform: Boston's Arts and Crafts Movement, (Wellesley: the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, 1997), pp. 79, 176-77.
Arthur J. Stone Workshop Papers in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, (henceforth referred to as 'Stone Papers'), Box 11, 'Altar Vase Drawing' folder.
- Stone Papers, Box 1, 'Photos of Small Work' folder and 'Large Photo Album' folder.
- Stone Papers, Box 8, 'Lettering and Inscriptions' folder and 'Church Inscriptions' folder.
- Stone Papers, Box 12.
- Brad Pearson, The Spirit That is Pomfret, (Pomfret: the Pomfret Alumni Association, 1993), p. 47.
- Stone Papers, Box 11, 'Altar Vase Drawing' folder.
- "E. W. Clark, Banker and Yachtsman, 88" in The New York Times, 5 April 1946, p. 24.
- Elenita C. Chickering, Arthur J. Stone 1847-1938: Designer and Silversmith, (Boston: the Boston Athenaeum, 1994), pp. 124-27.
- Stone Papers, Box 11, 'Altar Vase Drawing' folder. It is interesting to note that the envelope containing these drawings is addressed to Stone in Gardner with a return address of the Clark Bank in Philadelphia, but postmarked from Marblehead, MA. We speculate he may have had a summer home there.