Vase, ca. 1880
Gorham Manufacturing Company (American, established 1831)
Providence, Rhode Island
Silver and mixed metals; H. 9 in. (22.9 cm)
Stamped on underside: Gorham's standard trademark (lion, anchor, G) / STERLING / B86 / M
Purchase, Judy and John M. Angelo Gift, 2008 (2008.68)
This vase is a classic example of the Anglo-Japanese style, featuring the use of mixed metals and ornamental motifs drawn from the natural world. Two copper medallions inserted into the vase's honeycomb surface depict an owl on its perch beside a crescent moon and a bird in flight. Above the foot, silver and copper foliage springs from a granulated ground, while copper birds and insects are applied around the body as if by chance, in the Japanese fashion.
Inspired by imports of Japanese fine and decorative arts, American designers of the 1870s and 1880s experimented with materials and techniques, striving to incorporate Japanese sensibilities into their own aesthetic visions. Particularly influential were prints by the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), a group of which were acquired by the Gorham Manufacturing Company as inspiration for its designers. Innovative British artists such as Christopher Dresser (1834–1904) and firms such as Elkington and Company of Birmingham, England, further excited American interest in the Anglo-Japanese style that characterizes Aesthetic movement metalwork at its most successful.