Marcus & Co Sterling Silver and Turquoise 2-handled Condiment Dish, New York City, c. 1905
This is a rare and stunning example of great American arts & crafts silver. The circular bowl is bordered with a band of applied beading around the top rim with the interior and exterior surfaces exhibiting beautiful hammering. The unusual, long loop handles consist of two silver wires which are hammered at their ends and attached to the bodies. Cabochon turquoise surrounded by a ring of beading adorns the top of each handle.
Based on a c. 1900 design by Charles Robert Ashbee, this iconic dish is 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.
The bowl is an outstanding example of arts and crafts design. The hammered surface of the bowl 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 almost identical example of this dish by Ashbee can be found in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. An identical dish by Marcus & Co. is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of art on display in the American Wing.
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 Cotswold setting of Chipping Camden, the Boston Society of Arts & Crafts moved its Handicraft Shop to Wellesley Hills.
This lovely sterling silver dish is marked underneath 'MARCUS & CO/ STERLING'. It measures 4.25 inches in diameter by 2.5 inches high. The length across the handles is 12.5 inches. It weighs 8.20 troy ounces and is in very good antique condition.
Annette Carruthers, Ashbee to Wilson (Cheltenham: Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, 1986), p. 8.