The Martelé line of silver by Gorham was the finest art nouveau silver made in America. Individually designed and executed entirely by hand, each piece is a unique work of art. Every piece was hand made - no machines were used in Martelé production. It is even made of higher grade silver than sterling (.925); Martelé is made from Britannia silver (.9584) and more expensive than sterling.
The hinged cover is a shaped dome decorated with foliage and flowers along with a beautiful floriform finial.
The hand-raised body of the kettle with hammered surfaces accentuate the scenes of exotic foliage flowing freely around the body. On each side of the body, crossed branches with stunning leaves and flowers decorate their respective areas. Even the two short protruding bars on each side which function to suspend the kettle on its warming stand are designed as flowers. One side has beautifully repousséd monogram and dates - 'EMR 1880 1915'.
The warming stand is striking with organically shaped risers decorated with foliage and flowers connecting to the base which is shaped as a larger version of the base of the kettle.
This rare kettle and stand were chased by George W. Sauthof. Of German birth, Sauthof worked at Tiffany & Co. and then went to Gorham in 1884 where he remained until his retirement in 1927. He was one of Gorham's most accomplished chasers, working on some of the finest pieces Gorham produced - including many exhibition pieces. His skills are certainly represented here in the fine execution of this kettle and stand.
His skill earned him the second highest of the chasers' salaries, $32.00 per week. His obituary reads: 'His exceptional ability as a silver chaser was soon recognized and he was entrusted to execute some of the finest master-pieces in silver repoussé. He was also a master in steel work, cutting dies and rolls for many of the beautiful borders used at the company today'.(1)
This pot was raised and assembled by Samuel R. Woolley (James T. Woolley's brother and also a member of the Boston Society for Arts & Crafts), which took 156 hours. It was then chased for an additional 141 hours by George W. Sauthof.(2) During this period workers in the Gorham factories worked a 50 hour work week. That equates to about 6 weeks just to make and chase this - finishing was extra. That is an enormous amount of time to form the kettle and stand and then decorate it.
Even more exceptional, the Rhode Island School of Design has the original design drawing for the kettle in their collection and online - click here to see it.
Both the kettle and stand are marked underneath with Gorham's trademark along with the Martelé mark and the silver standard '.9584' and the 'S/AA' factory codes. The kettle with the handle raised is 12.5 inches high. It weighs a very impressive 67.45 troy ounces and is in excellent condition. The burner is a slightly later Gorham sterling replacement.
- 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, (2001; New Orleans: New Orleans Museum of Art), p. 23-24.
- Larry J. Pristo, Martelé: Gorham's Art Nouveau Silver, (2002; Phoenix: Phoenix Publishing Group), p. 141.