Manufacturer Gorham Manufacturing Company American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 706

The Gorham Manufacturing Company was a leading American silversmithing firm throughout the second half of the nineteenth century, and their wares featured prominently in fashionable homes throughout the United States and abroad. The opening of Japan to the West in 1854 and subsequent displays of Japanese art at world’s fairs prompted a fascination with Japanese art and culture among American artists, craftsmen, and consumers. Gorham was quick to respond to the burgeoning demand for all things Japanese, producing a diverse array of silver with Japanese-inspired ornament beginning in the late 1860s. The demand for Japanesque silver continued throughout the nineteenth century, and in 1897 and 1898 Gorham created approximately eighty unique works in collaboration with Japanese artisans. This vase is a rare surviving example of this group. The firm’s records suggest Gorham silversmiths made the vase, which was then decorated by a Japanese craftsman. The applied ornament resembles the work of contemporary Meiji artists in style and technique. Indeed, the chrysanthemum and rooster composition appears frequently in Meiji art. The details of how this collaboration worked are unknown; however, Gorham records indicate that A. A. Vantine and Company, a New York retailer of Japanese goods, may have acted as intermediary, helping to ship the silver back and forth to Japan. With a wholesale cost of $108, this vase would have been accessible only to elite Gilded-Age consumers. Although the identity of the individual whose monogram appears on the underside is not known, the vase attests to his or her sophisticated taste and aesthetic sensibilities.

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