Erik Magnussen for Gorham Sterling Art Deco Bon Bon Dish, 1929
This sterling dish is an exquisite example of the bold and sculptural designs of the Art Deco movement. A flat circular ring comprises the base. Three cast deer, with their heads turned backwards peering into the bowl, stand upon lobe-carved carnelians attached to the base. These cast whimsical animals can also be seen used as a motif in a Magnussen sculpture called 'Ornament' illustrated in Gorham Silver by Carpenter (ill. 280, p. 211). The bowl is divided into 6 sections by hand raised lines coming together at a central circle.
This bon bon dish features two prominent traits of late 1920's Art Deco design. First, the element of 'static motion'- the deer are full of movement at the same time they are not actually moving. Second, the bowl is designed with the strong low horizontal emphasis that is such an important part of late 20's design.
In 1925, in a daring and forward-looking move, Gorham hired the famous Danish silversmith Erik Magnussen to develop a line of 'modern' silver. Magnussen designed the most important pieces of American Art Deco silver while he worked at Gorham. He often incorporated in his silver jewelry and holloware the use of semiprecious stones to enhance their beauty.
American Art Deco silver is extremely rare. The American market was not ready for it and Gorham had a great deal of trouble selling Magnussen designed 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.
Underneath, the base is marked with Gorham's trademark, 'GORHAM/STERLIN G', the model number '14017' and with Erik Magnussen's famous 'E.M' signature mark. The base measures 5.5 inches in diameter and the height to the top of the deer's heads is 2.5 inches. It weighs 10.7 troy ounces (carnelians included).
According to a report by Sam Hough derived from costing records at the Gorham archives, this dish was one of 12 made c. 1929. Each dish retailed for $55.00. It's also fun to note on the report that by January 1931 the dishes were being offered for $15.00, three quarters of their production cost, and that 'Gorham couldn't give them away'.