Erik Magnussen Designed for Gorham Pair of Art Deco Sterling Silver and Ivory Salt & Pepper Shakers, Sample Code F/YW, Providence, 1926
These shakers are rare examples of Erik Magnussen's work and made the year Magnussen started working at Gorham. The unusual form, coupled with Magnussen's unique vision of modern silver, is beautifully executed.
Made from multiple parts, the domed bases scored with 15 incised lines screw onto the stems separated by a carved ivory floriform 8-petal disc.
The main bodies are shaped as vases with 16 incised lines radiating vertically.
Removable covers are shaped as domes surmounted with stylized finials. One is pierced with large holes for salt and the other with smaller holes for pepper.
Erik Magnussen was an important Danish silversmith hired by Gorham from 1926 to 1929 to develop silver in the 'modern' style. During this brief period he designed very creative and beautiful silver. Most Magnussen designed pieces were made in very limited quantities - from one to a couple dozen.
To introduce Magnussen's work to the United States in 1926, Gorham held concurrent exhibitions of his pieces at their flagship store on New York's Fifth Avenue and at the Metropolitan Museum of Arts' 10th annual American Industrial Art Exhibition of 1926-27. Due to the success of the Art Deco exhibition in Paris, this important exhibition at the Met was the first to display modern American objects not based on historical designs.
Exhibited at the Met was a Magnussen designed egg cup with the special order (sample) code F/YU. (Many thanks to private scholar W. Scott Braznell for this information.) These shakers are marked F/YW. As there is no evidence they were displayed at the Met, they would likely have been exhibited at Gorham's Fifth Avenue store.
It is extremely rare to find examples of the very earliest American art deco silver such as these. (We had a nut dish from this period years ago, see here, and a pair of compotes, see here.)
When Gorham was marketing this line of 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. It is for these reasons that today American art deco silver is extremely rare, very much appreciated and highly sought after by collectors and museums. (See Gorham Silver by Charles Carpenter.)
These rare and important art deco salt and pepper shakers are marked with Gorham's trademark, 'GORHAM', 'STERLING', the special order (sample) code 'F/YW', the 'sailboat' date mark for 1926 and Magnussen's trademark. They are also engraved underneath with the original owners name, 'WHITCOMB'. They measure 4.25 inches high, weigh a combined 5.35 troy ounces and are in excellent antique condition.