This is an exceptional hand raised and hand chased centerpiece/ epergne. Extraordinary repoussé and chasing are finely executed to create this stunning work of art. Functional in many ways, it consists of a removable bowl on stand and four removable side dishes.
The rim is decorated with repousséd and chased scenes of fruits and nuts emanating from cornucopia flanking the blank reserves. The wide band around the body of the bowl is repousséd and chased with lovely floral scenes above fluted areas with chased bell-flowers and water-leaves. The oval body is stunningly decorated with French classical design including bands of laurel leaves and repoussé and chased foliage, all of which exhibit exquisite details.
The detachable bowls are similarly decorated around their rims with repoussé and chased flowers. The interiors of these bowls retain their original gilding with some wear.
The magnificent base is an amazing design. Atop the curved legs, it features ram's heads overlooking scrolling arms covered with leaves and vines traveling up the fluted ends. Cast laurel leaf swags drape the sides of the base separated by shells and the ram's heads.
Created in Gorham'sLouis XVI design, this centerpiece is one of Gorham's finest post-Martelé creations. A large tureen and stand in this design, part of The Duke Service, is pictured and described inAn Illustrated History of Silverware Design: "Our ornament is classic and architectural in character, and treated with great delicacy. One of its main elements of strength lies in the fact that it is such exquisite taste, well executed".(1)
According to the records from the Gorham Archives, only three of these were made. The first was made in June of 1908, the second in 1916 and the third in 1919. They had net costs of $1,641.00, $2,100.00 and $3,400.00 respectively - amazing amounts of money at the time. The first epergne took 1434 hours to create, a massive amount of time and effort.(2)
All the bowls are marked with Gorham's trademark and 'STERLING' and with the special order code 'M/AB.' Since the epergne is not marked with a date mark, it is impossible to tell which of the three it is. The centerpiece bowl alone measures 20.5 inches long by 15.5 inches wide by 7.5 inches high. The overall dimensions are 21.75 inches long by 21.75 inches wide across the bowls by 12 inches high. This rare centerpiece is in excellent antique condition and weighs an impressive 261.95 troy ounces. Two of the three originally had silverplated liners and wire "meshes".
For a pair of covered vegetable dishes in this design, click here.
William Codman,An Illustrated History of Silverware Design,(Providence: The Gorham Company, 1930), p. 34.
Costing Slip for M/AB Centerpiece, Gorham Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.
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