John Wendt (attr) Monumental Figural Antique Sterling Silver Centerpiece, NYC, NY, c. 1870
This spectacular item is one of the nicest centerpieces we have had the pleasure to offer. It is comprised of all the bold architectural, classical, and figural elements one needs to make an extremely impressive statement. A beautifully gilt interior decorates the round bowl with an overhanging applied decorative banding.
Exceptional cast and applied handles feature full figures of mermaids or sirens. These fantastical figures have one arm raised holding foliage head coverings on flowing hair. Their left hands are holding drapes from which fish tales emerge and wrap around the handles.
Flanked on each side of the shield are sea creatures used in heraldry called wyverns, bound to the shields with garlands as they clutch and support it. One shield is engraved with a 'C' initial while the opposite one is blank.
The amazing column is a complicated arrangement of structures, including a central, round pillar strengthened and supported by shaped, rectangular devices, balls, and garlands. A large rectangular cube above a circular base has cast and applied florets on two sides and large, bearded masks on the others. Large, impressive, scrolled feet ornamented with classical foliage support platforms mounted with urns.
According to D. Albert Soeffing in Silver Magazine: "For an extended period of time, Ball, Black & Co was the leading jeweler in New York City and the nation." Soeffing continues: "the firm maintained a close relationship with a number of skilled silversmiths, who provided a steady supply of the richest and most stylish silver goods." (1)
Among this list of great silversmiths is John Rudolph Wendt, who "did not use a maker's mark on silverware produced for Ball, Black & Co... It should also be noted that some of Wendt's silverware produced for the firm was marked Eng' Sterling or English Sterling". (2) Wendt's shop was located on the upper floors of Ball, Black & Co's building on Broadway.
This rare and exquisite centerpiece is marked underneath 'ENGLISH STERLING/ 314'. It measures 21 inches tall by 19 inches wide. It weighs 195.50 troy ounces and is in exceptional antique condition.
D. Albert Soeffing in "Ball, Black & Co. Silverware Merchants" in Silver Magazine, (Rancho Santa Fe: Vol. XXX, No. 6, Nov/Dec 1988), p. 44.
Ibid., p 46.
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