Full-size pattern in shape of cotton plant for applied motif at base of handle of Bryant Vase
Tiffany & Co. (1837–present)
Made in New York, New York, United States
5 1/2 x 5 x 1 1/2 in. (14 x 12.7 x 3.8 cm)
Gift of Tiffany and Company, 1985
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774
When the original Bryant Vase (77.9a,b) was completed in silver, Tiffany & Co. preserved the model by making electroformed patterns, which could be used to make negative molds for the production of electrotyped copies of the vase. Although Tiffany did not produce this model for commercial sale, several copies were completed: one for presentation to the Century Association, members of which had commissioned the original Bryant Vase as a gift for fellow member William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878), and another to be given to the Village of Cummington, Massachusetts, where Bryant was born. Among the many significant scientific advances of the early nineteenth century, the understanding of the basic principles of electricity was perhaps the most revolutionary. The invention of the electric battery in 1800 by the Italian scientist Alessandro Volta led to experiments in electrometallurgy, the method by which positively charged metal ions in a solution are deposited onto a negatively charged surface. When this process had matured into an industrially viable technology, it was one of the earliest commercial applications of electricity and had a transformative effect on metal refining, printing, and the manufacture of tablewares. Successful experiments in England (1801) and Italy (1805) led to the development of electroplating—depositing a thin layer of one metal onto another. It was soon discovered that the same technique could be used to duplicate an object by allowing the deposited layer of metal to build up in a mold, forming a substantial wall. The copy conformed so exquisitely to the mold that even the most delicate engraved lines were rendered. This technique, called electroforming or electrotyping, was the method used to create the patterns for the Bryant Vase.