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The Making of a Collection: Islamic Art at the Metropolitan

November 1, 2011–February 5, 2012

Edward C. Moore (1827–1891)

Edward C. Moore was the eldest son of a renowned family of silversmiths, who established themselves in New York in the late 1830s and in 1846 began selling their work to Tiffany & Co. From 1851 on, the Moore firm became exclusive suppliers to Tiffany. It is believed that around the same time Edward succeeded his father John C. Moore (ca. 1802–1874). In 1868 Tiffany & Co. purchased Moore's firm, and Edward became manager and, ultimately, artistic director of Tiffany's silver manufacturing and chief designer.

Little is known about Moore. He appears not to have spoken or written about his work. His silverware reminds us, however, of his ingenious artistry and talent, which made him without doubt the foremost silversmith in America in the last half of the nineteenth century. The arts of the Near East and Far East played a key role in his career: they helped him to forge his own style, which after 1870 was largely inspired by Japanese and Islamic art.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, artworks from the Orient were appearing first in Europe and later in America. As an artist always looking for new sources of inspiration, Edward C. Moore became one of the first to comprehend the real value of these treasures. Hence in the 1860s and 1870s he started collecting these exotic objects and became a pioneer collector of Islamic art in America. His collection was the first notable one to enter the Met. Among more than two thousand objects in his bequests of 1891 and 1908, about four hundred were from the Islamic world.They comprised ceramics, glass, and metalwork, and also some outstanding jewelry, embroidery, papier-mâché, and wood. Moore's comprehensive collection was formed as an adjunct to his profession, and its main purpose was to provide him and his designers with artistic and technical ideas. Thence he introduced new motifs, forms, and techniques to American silverware.

Moore developed a particular interest in Islamic metalwork and collected many examples from medieval Egypt, Syria, and Iran. He was looking for new motifs, forms, and techniques he could apply to his own silver creations. Moore's early work of the 1850s and early 1860s showed clarity of form and design following Western European examples. After the Civil War he developed his own style and began designing silverware based on various exotic sources, including Near Eastern and Far Eastern arts.