Marcus & Co Sterling and Amethyst Condiment Dishes - 2, New York City, c. 1905
These extremely rare dishes are wonderfully designed with a circular bowl bordered with a band of cast and applied beading. The interior and exterior surfaces exhibit beautiful hammering. The unusual, long loop handles consist of two silver wires which are hammered at their ends and attached to the bodies. A cabochon amethyst surrounded by a ring of beading adorns the front top of each handle.
Based on a c. 1900 design by Charles Robert Ashbee, these iconic dishes are marked by the New York firm of Marcus & Company. The successor firm to Starr & Marcus, Marcus & Co. made a small amount of hand wrought silver in the arts and crafts style. This design of bowl by Marcus is very rare.
The bowls are outstanding examples of arts and crafts design. The hammered surface of the bowls clearly breaks from the machine finished pieces popular at the time. The long attenuated 'loop' handles makes a strong, clean and pure aesthetic statement which contrasts to much of the highly decorated silver being produced at the turn of the century.
This design has become an icon of the arts & crafts movement. An example of this dish by Ashbee can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. A similar dish by Marcus & Co. with two loop handles is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of art - displayed on the balcony in the American Wing in the display case of late 19th/ early 20th century silver.
These extremely rare cups are true masterpieces of the arts and crafts movement. While commonly called 'loop handled cups', they were originally intended as condiment dishes. Guild of the Handicraft catalogs refer to them as 'jam or butter' dishes.(1)
C. R. Ashbee was one of the most important leaders of the arts and crafts movement. In London in 1889, he started the Guild of the Handicraft. In part a communally based workshop, in part a return to ancient craft guilds, the Guild was based on a rejection of the machine-made that embraced the hand-crafted: a return to 'honest' craftsmanship.
Ashbee's influence cannot be overstated. After he toured the U. S. in 1895 talking and lecturing about the arts & crafts movement, arts & crafts societies were begun in Boston and Chicago in 1896. When he moved the Guild of the Handicraft to the idyllic rural Cotwsold setting of Chipping Camden, the Boston Society of Arts & Crafts moved its Handicraft Shop to Wellesley Hills.
These lovely sterling silver dishes are marked underneath 'MARCUS & CO/ STERLING'. They measure 4.25 inches in diameter by 1.5 inches high. The length across the dish and handle is 8.5 inches. They weigh 5.5 troy ounces each and are in very good antique condition. Each is monogrammed 'S.L.H.' in an artistic arts and crafts style.
Annette Carruthers, Ashbee to Wilson (Cheltenham: Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, 1986), p. 8.