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Gorham Antique Sterling Silver Japonesque Water Set, Providence, RI, 1883

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Exceptional artistry and talent were involved in creating this lovely nature-inspired water set. The design, chasing, matte finish background, and parcel gilding are exquisitely executed to create wonderful, exotic scenes.

The baluster-shaped pitcher has a large scene of two robins perched on branches, with one bringing another a caterpillar snack. It's great to see how the engraved foliage continues upwards as if it grows underneath the horizontal band of leaf and berry decoration. Two butterflies fly around the upper foliage. On the opposite side is another lovely garden scene with two butterflies.

Each goblet has the same birds in different scenes, along with three butterflies. The square tray with raised border is a wonderful display of natural scenery. Lily pads with a blossoming flower emerge from the water while a tall bamboo (?) stem with two dragonflies arches from the marsh grass, along with a flowering prunus branch with a bird perched on it. A goose attempts to snack on a dragonfly before joining its flock already in flight.

Christie's, Fine American Furniture, Silver, Folk Art and Decorative Arts, January 20, 1989, lot 263.
Christie's, Important English, Continental and American Silver, May 17, 2012, lot 214
Private Collection.

This rare set is marked with Gorham's trademark along with 'STERLING' and the 1883 date letter 'N.' The water pitcher and goblets are also marked with model numbers '1075' and '961', respectively. The 12.25-inch square tray does not have a number, so it may have been specially ordered for the set. The pitcher measures 8 inches tall and weighs 29.05 troy ounces, while the goblets measure 6 inches and weigh a combined 13.85 troy ounces and have gilt interiors. The tray weighs 40.20 troy ounces for a total of 83.10 troy ounces. The service is in excellent antique condition with very light even wear to the gilding.

Original archival image from the Gorham Mfg. Co. Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.