Erik Magnussen Rare Designed for Gorham Art Deco Sterling Silver Centerpiece Bowl, Providence, 1926
This large bowl is a very rare example of Erik Magnussen's work and the first time we have ever seen hand-chased floral decoration on one of his art deco pieces. The lovely form coupled with Magnussen's unique vision of modern silver is beautifully executed. The wide bowl is scored with 16 incised lines emanating from a central circle. Every other panel is hand chased with a beautiful stylized plant with a flower in bloom.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 bowl and cover with the special order (sample) code EGK. (Many thanks to private scholar W. Scott Braznell for this information.) This bowl is marked EGV. As there is no evidence it was displayed at the Met, it may 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 this. (We had a nut dish from this period years ago, 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 melted 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.)
This rare and important bowl is marked with Gorham's trademark, 'GORHAM', 'STERLING', the special order (sample) code 'EGV', the 'sailboat' date mark for 1926 and Magnussen's trademark. It measures just shy of 11.5 inches wide by just over 2 inches tall, weighs 24.65 troy ounces and is in very good antique condition.
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