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Gorham Martelé .9584 Silver Antique Centerpiece Bowl signed by William C. Codman, Providence, RI, 1913

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Of circular form with an undulating everted rim, this wonderful Martelé centerpiece features striking and rare naturalistic organic floral and foliate chasing of thorn apples.

Gorham's Martelé line of silver was the finest expression of art nouveau in American silver. Each piece was individually designed and crafted by hand; no machine was used in any part of the creation and each piece is unique. One of the fine traits of Martelé is the beautiful shimmering surfaces created by leaving the hand-hammering as a backdrop for the intricately chased floral and foliate designs.

The applied base has a spreading foot, also with an undulating edge, stunning hammering to the surface and exceptional decoration.

According to Gorham's costing records, this bowl took 54 hours to form and was raised by Henry H. Baker. The floral decoration took 80 hours and was chased by Eugene J. Kauer.(1)

'Eugene Kauer was born in New York City, January 8, 1861 of German immigrant parents... Kauer was trained at Tiffany's... and was employed at Gorham on November 15, 1885.' He was paid $30.00 per week in 1900, then regarded as a substantial wage. Only three other men at the company earned more.(2)

When Kauer died on December 13, 1921, his obituary stated that he was ' of the most expert chasers of the world...examples of his handicraft have been the central figures of exhibitions by the Gorham Company at world expositions in Paris, St. Louis, Chicago, Buffalo and San Francisco... One of the best examples of Mr. Kauer's work, as well as one of the finest specimens of the art ever produced from the Gorham Company's plant, was a large salver, upon which Mr. Kauer worked for more than 18 months, having consistently before him freshly cut flowers and the best works on horticulture'.(3)

On one side, there is a wonderfully chased 'BBE' monogram on the edge of the bowl and the inscribed 25 anniversary date '1889 January 3rd 1914' underneath.

This bowl belonged to Bessie Benson Emerson who married Charles Francis Emerson on January 3rd, 1889. Charles Francis Emerson, a cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was the son of Edward Octavius Emerson who was a pioneer in the production, distribution and marketing of oil and natural gas from Western Pennsylvania and Ohio. The company he founded with Joesph Pew, Sun Oil Company, is still in business today as Sunoco.

This stunning bowl is marked underneath with Gorham's Martelé trademark along with the silver martelé standard '.9584' and the inventory code 'BWD' It is also signed and dated by William Christmas Codman: 'W. C Codman 1913'. It measures 13.5 inches wide by 4.25 inches high, weighs 50.90 troy ounces and is in excellent crisp antique condition with some scratching to the center of the bowl where someone may have placed a potted plant.

Provenance: Primarily by descent in the family.

  1. Larry J. Pristo, Martelé: Gorham's Art Nouveau Silver, (Phoenix: Phoenix Publishing Group, 2002), p. 280.
  2. Samuel J. Hough, 'The House of Lords: The Chasers of Martelé Silver' in John Webster Keefe and Samuel Hough, Magnificent Marvelous Martelé American Art Nouveau Silver: The Jolie and Robert Shelton Collection, (New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art, 2001), p. 24.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Benson genealogy website: last accessed 12/30/14.