This child's cup is one of the nicest we have ever seen. It is made of heavy gauge silver and quite beautiful. A bold cast and applied handle represents a sea creature. French classical decoration adorns the rim and bottom of the cup which is attached to a stepped pedestal base with a circular row of fine beading.
Enamel is an extremely difficult media to work with and the amount of enameling and intricate executions of the various scenes is extraordinary.
Using two tones of enamel, turquoise and purple, the first two lines of the popular nursery rhyme are executed on each side of the cup. As the rhyme goes:
Hey diddle diddle, The cat and the fiddle, The cow jumped over the moon; The little dog laughed To see such sport and the dish ran away with the spoon.
The enamel scenes are true to the rhyme. There is a seated cat decked out in formal attire playing a fiddle. The next scene is of the cow jumping over a yellow crescent moon. Next you have a plate running away with a spoon and then a seated dog laughing. There is a wide array of colors used in executing these enamel scenes. The colors are vivid and show up nicely against the overall gilt background.
Gorham's enamel shop was opened in 1891 and they hired the noted Hungarian artist Gyula de Festetics to run the shop. Most of his employees (who did most of the enameling) were women, 'chosen for their artistic tendencies.' (1) De Festetics took a great deal of pride in the skill of Gorham's female enamelists and gave them credit for their work.
Enameling from this shop was featured prominently at their 1893 World's Columbian Exposition pavilion and Gorham won several awards at the fair for this enamel work. Their enamels were highly praised in the press.
According to costing records, the first cup in this design was completed by April of 1894. It had a 'net' or wholesale cost of $75.00, (2) translating to roughly a $95.00 retail price at Gorham's New York City store. This was an exceptionally expensive child's cup when one thinks that Gorham's most skilled silversmiths at the time earned $20.00-$30.00 per week.
This rare cup is marked underneath with Gorham's trademark and 'STERLING/ 4779' and the date symbol for 1894. it measures 4.5 inches wide across the handle by just shy of 3.5 inches high, weighs 7 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition with wear to the original gilding.
Julia Osgood, The Silversmiths' Work in the Liberal Arts Building Columbian Exposition A.D. 1893, (Providence: Gorham Mfg. Co., 1894), p. 3.
Gorham Mfg. Co., Silverware Cost Book #9, p. 166, Gorham Company Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.