Gorham Pair of St Louis Exposition Copper and Silver Monumental Vases, Providence, RI, 1904
These extraordinary vases are bronzed patinated copper with bold floral art nouveau applied silver mounts. While a pair, the two vases show some individual yet complementary design.
Each art nouveau handle is a remarkable silver casting of overlapping leaves and bunches of dogwood flowers. The handles are identical on both vases. Other identical features used on both vases are the applied silver around the flaring rims, the four dolphin-head feet with applied silver ornament, and the overall design. Where the two vases differ are in the flowing silver floral decorations on the bodies. One incorporates gentian while the other uses moth orchids. The four feet are formed as dolphin heads and are beautifully enhanced with silver scrolls and floral headdresses.
Objects custom made for World Fair exhibitions were displayed to show the public what companies were capable of creating. Gorham used the fairs as opportunities to advertise their skills, innovative products, and the latest fashionable designs. The pieces they created for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair were some of the most artistically accomplished the firm ever made. Their writing desk and chair, made for this fair, are two of the finest pieces of American decorative art ever created.
The visual impact of the shaped bodies, along with the naturalistic application of silver against the warm, bronzed copper, creates magnificent works of art.
One reviewer noted:
The Gorham silversmiths, of whom it was said, have again shown by their exhibits that their work is the standard for measuring what America is doing in combining art with craftsmanship....There are only two pieces of copper shown, but they are equal to any number of pieces that have been heretofore exhibited. They are very large vases, with silver applied ornament, the union of the two metals in the design making an extremely fine effect. (1)
According to the Gorham costing record, sculptor and silversmith Franz F. Ziegler spent nine days to create the models for the vases. His talent and time were highly prized by Gorham - he spent 20 weeks modeling the incredible writing table and chair mentioned above.
To form (hand-raise and apply the silver mounts) the body of just one vase, it took 300 hours and was done in the "experimental" room where the most difficult silversmithing was accomplished by the best silversmiths. Then, Carl Lindvall spent 40 hours hand-chasing the details on each vase. They were then finished and patinated.
When all the work was done, each vase had a net cost of $400.00, an enormous amount of money at the time. (2) This cost is comparable to monumental Martelé vases, such as the Night Vase, which sold at Sotheby's January 15, 2004, for $130,700.00, and had a net cost of $420. (3)
Exhibition: St. Louis World's Fair, St. Louis, MO, 1904
Literature: Herbert S. Houston, "The Arts and Crafts", in The World's Work, World's Fair Number,August 1904
Warren Delano III, an uncle of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, graduated Harvard in 1874 and married Jennie Walters of Baltimore in 1876. He inherited a family estate 'Steen Valetze' in Barrytown, NY in 1894 and was a director and owner of various industrial companies.
According to his diary, he traveled from Nashville to St. Louis on Monday, April 18, 1904, and visited the fair for business on the 19th then left the next day. He returned to St. Louis in October with family members. On Tuesday the 18th, he visits the Varied Industries building, (4) where Gorham was exhibiting these vases. We believe he purchased these vases at the Fair.
By descent in the family.
These extraordinary vases are marked with Gorham's trademark for copper along with 'GORHAM CO./ AY294', and the SL mark designating these vases went to the St. Louis Exhibition. The vases measure 10.75 inches across the handles by 22 inches high. The vases are in excellent antique condition. They have been professionally repatinated to match their original patination, which remains underneath the bases.
Herbert S. Houston, "The Arts and Crafts", in The World's Work, The World's Fair at Saint Louis, (New York: Doubleday Page & Co.),August 1904, Vol. 8, No. 4, n.p.
Costing Book Vol. 15 Silver Ware 1903-07, p. 11, Gorham Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.
Cost Book Martelé Samples, Vol. 1, n.p., Gorham Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.
Warren Delano III, The Excelsior Diary, 1904, Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, Delano Family Papers, Warren Delano III: Dairies 1900-1909, Box 58.
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