Tiffany and Co. Japanesque Sterling and Mixed Metals "Pilgrim Bottle" Vase, NYC, NY, c. 1878
Mixed metal dragonflies with copper bodies and silver wings become handles on this interesting and fanciful aesthetic movement vase. Exquisite honeycomb hammering decorates the round body and feet. An applied wisteria or trumpet vine with leaves travels around the vase. It is enhanced with additional engraved stems and leaves. Hanging downward from gold bud ends are three beautiful copper seed pods. A copper beetle is applied on a front foot and is inlaid with gold. On the reverse, a spider is applied and inlaid with silver.
Using various elements of nature as inspiration for great design, Tiffany & Co. were masters at creating exemplary works of art. This vase is one of Edward C. Moore's designs. According to John Loring in Magnificent Tiffany Silver, '...by the time of the Paris Exposition of 1878, Moore's Japanesque style was at its height. The splendid exhibit of Japanesque silver with its undulating volumetric forms, its soft, hammered surfaces, asymmetries, applied ornaments, inlaid and mixed metals - all used with an extraordinary grace, harmony and restraint for the period - won Tiffany & Co the grand prize for silverware and a gold medal for Moore...'(1) A different copper example of this rare vase is illustrated on the back cover of his book.
You read it here first: While Loring (and most everyone else) refers to this style of decoration as wisteria, Tiffany & Co. designer and lead silversmith, Charles T. Grosjean calls it "Bean - Trumpet Vine." (2) It appears we have been misinterpreting this decoration for generations. While the leaves are similar to wisteria as well as trumpet vine, the beans or seed pods look like the trumpet vine.
Tiffany & Co. records the shape of this vase as "Vase Pilgrim Bottle." The rare form was made in different sizes, weighing between 5 and 15 ounces and with differing decorations. (3) The Pilgrim Bottle is an antique English (or Continental) baroque style of silver bottle that is usually much taller, has applied ring handles, sometimes with chains, and a lid.
To our eyes, this body of this vase is in the shape of a "moon flask vase" - a form that comes from Asian ceramics. The style is rare in western design, although it is seen in ceramics of the aesthetic movement. It is almost never seen in silver. While Tiffany calls this a "Pilgrim Bottle" vase, it clearly references Asian ceramic forms that complement the Japanesque decoration. It seems likely Tiffany's designers were calling a new form by a familiar name.
A nearly identical vase is in the collection of The Walters Art Museum (see here).
This spectacular vase is marked 'TIFFANY & Co/ 5321 M 1654/ STERLING-SILVER/-AND-/ OTHER METALS/ 393.' it measures 4.75 inches wide by 6.5 inches high, weighs 16.35 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition.
John Loring, Magnificent Tiffany Silver, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 2001), p. 30.
Charles T Grosjean (attr.), Ledger (Technical Book of Processes and Metallurgy), p. 321, The Gorham Archives, John Hay Library, Brown University.
Sotheby's, sale number 6873, lot 34.
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