Karl Leinonen/ Mary Knight Sterling Fruit or Punch Bowl, Boston, c. 1907
Of demi-spherical form, this wonderful bowl features outstanding chased decoration around the bowl and on the spreading stepped foot. A repeating pattern of scrolling foliate cartouches centering a flower with vines and berries alternate with flowing vertical floral motifs. Clearly designed by Mary Knight, this ambitious decorative scheme appears to retain original oxidation from the Handicraft Shop.
The Handicraft Shop of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, was an early outgrowth of Boston's Society for Arts and Crafts. Mary Knight came from Gorham's design department and supervised the shop, having several of the artisans there execute her designs. She worked along side many of them, letting them raise the vessels and applying the decoration herself.
Her work is unique. Partly inspired by designs found on colonial silver (the scrolling foliate cartouches here resemble those of heraldic devices on colonial silver), her decoration is always current with Arts and Crafts design of her period (such as the flowers and leaves on this bowl). Her chased decoration is highly unusual in that it is comprised of strikes from small leather working tools, rather than the traditional chasing tools of the silver trade. (See The Art that is Life, Ed. Wendy Kaplan, p. 272-3)
In 1906, Boston's Museum of Fine Arts held the first exhibition of American colonial silver. This seminal exhibition had a major influence on the Arts and Crafts movement in Boston. The form of this bowl bears a striking resemblance to a c. 1753 bowl by Peter Van Dyck of New York in the exhibition (object number 321) and now in the Garvan Collection at Yale. Knight's decoration is somewhat similar, but updated. (We have had another Leinonen executed piece that was a direct copy of a cann by Edward Winslow that was in the exhibition, no. 331.)
This bowl was raised by Karl Leinonen, a Finnish immigrant silversmith, who ultimately would receive the Society of Arts and Crafts highest award for his craft, the designation of 'Medalist', one of only seven silversmiths to be so honored.
The decoration, possibly the entire bowl, was indisputably designed by Knight. It is quite possible, but not certain, that she did the chasing work on the bowl herself. Leinonen did not like decorating his later pieces, and may not have liked decorating this either. Knight often used others to raise the forms that she decorated and signed herself, she decorated pieces marked by others also. The Handicraft Shop espoused a cooperative spirit, and this bowl is certainly a cooperative effort.
While pieces marked by female silversmiths are not uncommon, we have never had an item which so wonderfully illuminates the close partnering of skills between female and male silversmiths. This is a very rare, and possibly unique, piece. It was illustrated in 'The Society of Arts and Crafts of Boston and its Master Silversmiths' by Rosalie Berberian in the Arts & Crafts Quarterly Magazine, Vol. IV, No. 1 (Pg. 17, fig. 2).
This beautiful sterling bowl measures 9 inches in diameter and 5 inches high. It weighs 28.2 troy ounces and is in very good condition (some scratches from use). One side between floral drops is inscribed, "W.B.B./ 1883 from 1908/ CTC" in the block letters popular during the period. It is marked with the Handicraft Shop trademark (double struck), 'STERLING', 'L' for Leinonen, and dated '1907'.
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