B855

Mary Knight (attr) Handicraft Shop Hand Wrought Arts & Crafts Sterling Silver Serving Plate, Wellesley Hills, MA, 1905

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Of circular form with a raised edge, this beautiful silver plate features outstanding tooled decoration around the rim. A repeating pattern of large flowers encircled with leaves separated with smaller flowers is bordered on the outer edge with an applied rim. The center is beautifully engraved with a coat-of-arms. 

The Handicraft Shop of Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, was an early outgrowth of Boston's Society for Arts and Crafts. Mary Catherine Knight came from Gorham's design department and supervised the Handicraft Shop, having several of the artisans there execute her designs. She worked alongside many of them, letting them raise the pieces and applying decoration herself.(1)

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 arts and crafts design. Her chased decoration is highly unusual in that it is comprised of strikes from small leatherworking tools, rather than the traditional chasing tools of the silver trade.(2) 

The Handicraft Shop espoused a cooperative spirit, and many of the pieces designed and decorated by Knight were raised by others.  She worked closely with Karl Leinonen, Franz Gyllenberg and Seth Eck. We had a similar important bowl with similar decoration also attributed to Katherine Knight, raised and marked by Karl Leinonen, which we sold to the Dallas Museum of Art. It was illustrated in Modernism in American Silver (p. 329).  We sold a larger similar charger, without a mark by the silversmith who raised it, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Pieces by female silversmiths are uncommon and highly sought after by museums and collectors today.

Provenance:  The coat-of-arms engraved in the center was used by the Tudor family of Boston.  Frederick Tudor, the entrepreneur of the Wenham Lake Ice Company, was a member of this family and may have been an ancestor of the owner. (3) 

This beautiful sterling plate measures 9.75 inches in diameter, weighs 15.15 troy ounces and is in good/ very good antique condition. It has a nice old surface with some scratches that don't look as bad as they appear in the close-up photos. It is marked on the back with the Handicraft Shop trademark along with 'STERLING' and '1905'.

Endnotes:

  1. Marilee B. Meyer, consulting curator, Inspiring Reform: Boston Arts & Crafts Movement, (Wellesley, MA: David Museum and Cultural Center, 1997), p. 75.
  2. Wendy Kaplan, The Art That is Life: The Arts & Crafts Movement in America, 1875-1920, (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1987), p. 273.
  3. William Tudor, ed., Deacon Tudor's Diary..., (Boston: Press of Wallace Spooner, 1896), appendix pp. XX-XXI.
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