Gorham Martelé Silver Sauce Boat and Tray with Ladle, Providence, RI, 1905
The Martelé line of silver by Gorham was the finest art nouveau silver made in America. Individually designed and executed, 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): Britannia silver is .9584 silver and more expensive than sterling.
The hand-raised body of the sauce boat with hammered surfaces accentuate the scenes of exotic aquatic foliage flowing freely around the body and foot of the boat and border of the tray. Wavy edges to the pieces heighten the sense of fluid motion. The ladle is chased with similar motifs. All three pieces are beautifully engraved with an 'MG' monogram.
The sauce boat 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 artisans working on some of the finest pieces Gorham produced - including many exhibition pieces.
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)
According to a report by Sam Hough derived from costing records at the Gorham archives, the ladle was made in November 1905 and chased by Karl Wendt, one of the Martelé chasers who worked for Gorham from 1892-1935. 'Entirely hand crafted, this piece was intended to accompany a Martelé Gravy Boat. Had the ladle been made of .950 grade silver (that used in Martelé), it would have been too soft to serve its function, thus the use of sterling'.
Provenance: Mary Gayley married Count Giulio Senni of Rome November 16, 1907. By descent through the family.
This stunning set is marked underneath the boat and tray with Gorham's trademark along with the Martelé mark and the silver standard '.9584' and the 'I/AH' and 'I/AI' factory codes. The ladle is stamped with Gorham's trademark and 'STERLING/ A5408'.
The tray measures 8.75 inches long while the sauce boat measures 5 inches high by 8.25 across handle and spout. The combined weight of the three pieces is 28.15 troy ounces and the set is in excellent antique condition.
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.
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