W. J. Braitsch & Co. 'Martelé' Art Nouveau Sterling Silver Water Pitcher, c. 1910
This is a stunning water pitcher created in Gorham's famous Martelé style. Hand-raised from a single piece of silver, the undulating body is designed with flowing floral and foliate scenes and four spreading feet accented with leaves. Wonderful hammering on the surface makes the piece sparkle. Dramatic shapes and stylized organic chasing makes this one of the nicest art nouveau water pitchers we've seen.
We were amazed to see this wasn't marked by Gorham. We can only speculate this was an unmarked special order from Gorham or possibly one of the Martelé artisans went to work for Braitsch.
According to independent Gorham scholar Samuel Hough, William J. Braitsch was born in New York in 1863. He was associated with Tiffany & Co. as a designer and chaser of precious metals and won its medal for silver designing for two successive years. In 1887 he formed Hearn & Braitsch in Providence, Rhode Island for the manufacture of gold-headed canes, umbrella mountings and novelties in gold and silver. By 1892, it was a substantial firm of 135 employees and a leader in its specialized field. Hough is not aware of a connection between the Gorham and Braitsch firms; although due to their proximity, there must have been at least a casual one.
This beautiful water pitcher is stamped 'WJB & CO/ STERLING/ HANDWROUGHT'. It measures 8.5 inches high, weighs 41.15 troy ounces and is in excellent condition. An 'F' monogram is included in the sinuous chased details on each side.