Mary Catherine Knight at the Handicraft Shop Hand Wrought Arts & Crafts Sterling Silver Charger, Boston or Wellesley Hills, 1902-11
Of circular form with a raised edge, this wonderful charger features outstanding chased decoration around the rim. A pattern of scrolling floral and foliate heart-shaped cartouches centering berries (?) is contained in a rectangular design of vines and berries that repeats around the rim with vines and berries alternating with flowing vertical floral motifs. Clearly designed by Mary Knight, this ambitious decorative scheme retains old, possibly 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. A gifted designer, Knight completed a four year design course at Philadelphia's Drexel Institute. Inspired both by medieval designs and those found on colonial silver, her decoration is at the forefront of the Arts and Crafts design. 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)
The Handicraft Shop espoused a cooperative spirit and many of the pieces decorated (and signed) by Knight were raised by others. This charger, decorated and signed by Knight, was probably 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 eight silversmiths to be so honored. We had a similar important bowl, which we sold to the Dallas Museum of Art that was illustrated in Modernism in American Silver (p. 329), decorated by Knight that was raised by Karl Leinonen and signed by him, not Knight.
Pieces by female silversmiths are uncommon and highly sought after by museums and collectors today.
This beautiful sterling charger measures 12.75 inches in diameter and weighs 31.62 troy ounces and is in very good/ excellent antique condition with a nice old surface. The decoration is in nice crisp condition retaining old, possibly original, patination. It is monogrammed 'KCW' in a cursive style. It is marked on the back with the Mary Knight's trademark, the Handicraft Shop trademark and 'STERLING'. Also on the back is the MFA's accession number in red, which has been crossed out in red.
Provenance: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Ark Antiques, New Haven
Literature: Jeannine Falino and Gerald W. R. Ward, Eds., Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000: American Silver in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2008), pp. 353-4.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, website (accessed 3/11/2013)