Marcus & Co Handwrought Sterling Silver and Turquoise 2-handled Condiment Dish, NYC, NY, c. 1899-17
A rare and stunning example of great American arts & crafts silver, this cup has a circular bowl bordered with a band of applied beading around the top rim. The interior and exterior surfaces exhibit beautiful hammering. The unusual, long loop handles consist of two silver wires 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 Marcus & Company. The successor firm to Starr & Marcus, Marcus & Co. made a small amount of hand-wrought silver in the arts and crafts style.
An iconic example of arts and crafts design, the bowl's hammered surface decisively breaks from the machine-finished pieces popular at the time. The long attenuated 'loop' handles make a strong, clean, and pure aesthetic statement, contrasting with much of the highly decorated silver produced at the turn of the century.
These extremely rare cups are true masterpieces of the arts and crafts movement. While commonly called 'loop-handled cups,' they were initially 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 influential 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's philosophy rejected the machine-made and 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, influential tastemakers began arts & crafts societies in Boston and Chicago in 1896. When Ashbee moved the Guild of the Handicraft to the idyllic rural Cotswold setting of Chipping Camden, the Handicraft Shop, closely associated with the Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston, moved to Wellesley Hills, MA.
This lovely sterling silver dish is marked underneath "MARCUS & CO" with scratch marks "S.2428." It measures 4.25 inches in diameter by 2.5 inches high. The length across the handles is 10.75 inches. It weighs 9.0 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition.
Annette Carruthers, Ashbee to Wilson (Cheltenham: Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum, 1986), p. 8.
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