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Author Topic:   O Enigmatic Centerpiece
mdhavey

Posts: 164
Registered: Dec 2003

iconnumber posted 07-15-2008 11:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhavey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's a beautiful, large centerpiece (8-3/4" across and 7" tall, weighing 24 oz.) that looks, at first glance, like a classic piece of Baltimore silver. The longer I look at it, however, the more puzzling it becomes. There are things about this that don't look typically Baltimore, like the strange reticulated squiggles on the bottom rim. Unfortunately the maker's mark is illegible due to it having been stamped on the convex base under the rim under the word STERLING, though it seems to start with an "S" and end with an unknown letter (more mystery). There is no other mark anywhere. An interesting enigma, and I welcome the group's thoughts...

mdh

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Richard Kurtzman
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Posts: 755
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 07-16-2008 12:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The "strange reticulated squiggles" appear to be wiggle work and I have seen this kind of design on some Baltimore pieces ie. A.E Warner.

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swarter
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Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 07-16-2008 08:31 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Much of the Baltimore repousse' work was by Samuel Kirk, but the incomplete mark seems only to be a second strike of the STERLING punch.

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mdhavey

Posts: 164
Registered: Dec 2003

iconnumber posted 07-16-2008 08:55 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhavey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I thought I remembered "wiggle work" as being more geometric and less random. Does anyone have a photo of wiggle work similar to this?

Meanwhile, I'm wracking my brain to come up with a quality Baltimore (or Philadelphia) silversmith whose name starts with an "S"! Any thoughts? Actually, if you turn the photo upside down, I suppose the silversmith's name could end in "S".

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mdhavey

Posts: 164
Registered: Dec 2003

iconnumber posted 07-16-2008 08:57 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhavey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My post overlapped with Swarter's. I didn't think about a restrike of STERLING. But could it be that the last letter isn't a "G"?

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 07-16-2008 11:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The last letter is a partial G. The two marks measure as the same length. Samuel Kirk's mark was "S.KIRK" which is shorter, and the last letter in your mark isn't a K, so . . . ..

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mdhavey

Posts: 164
Registered: Dec 2003

iconnumber posted 07-16-2008 12:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhavey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Actually, it would have to be S.KIRK&SONS since it's sterling era and that may be too long, though the last letter could be an "S" I suppose. But did they put STERLING on holloware or just 925/1000?

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Richard Kurtzman
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Posts: 755
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 07-16-2008 07:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
mdhavey, Consider the possibility that the sterling mark is not original to the piece.

"I thought I remembered "wiggle work" as being more geometric and less random. Does
anyone have a photo of wiggle work similar to this?"



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mdhavey

Posts: 164
Registered: Dec 2003

iconnumber posted 07-16-2008 11:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhavey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Interesting piece, Richard, a flask or bottle? What dimensions?

I suppose the sterling mark could have been added later. Which just deepens the mystery. Why would a monumental piece with exceptional workmanship that must have taken many weeks to create not be marked in the first place? It certainly doesn't look like a practice or apprentice piece.

I would have guessed that typical Baltimore style pieces in particular would be marked, given what I understand to be the competitive nature of silversmithing in that city in the 19th century.

Frustrating...

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Richard Kurtzman
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Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 07-17-2008 12:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A tea caddy, 6/3/4" high, which I would date to about 1860.
I have a feeling that your piece is from the same period.
Another aspect to consider: Is your piece complete?

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dragonflywink

Posts: 953
Registered: Dec 2002

iconnumber posted 07-17-2008 01:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Lovely pieces, both of them. Wouldn't the meandering design be pricked rather than wriggled?

~Cheryl

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mdhavey

Posts: 164
Registered: Dec 2003

iconnumber posted 07-17-2008 10:15 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhavey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Richard, I'm intrigued by your question. I'm not sure what might be missing from the piece that would make it more complete, though your question causes me to wonder why the STERLING mark is on the bottom of the bowl and not the rim of the base section. It's hard to imagine the mark being applied after the base section was attached, so I will presume that the bowl was marked sterling then attached to the base. I'll try and attach a more illustrative picture showing the base on the bowl.

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Richard Kurtzman
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iconnumber posted 07-17-2008 12:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Could a piece such as yours at one time had a cover?

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mdhavey

Posts: 164
Registered: Dec 2003

iconnumber posted 07-17-2008 01:59 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhavey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I doubt it had a cover. The form seems more tazza or fruitbowl-like to me. When I think of covers I think of serving-type holloware, which this isn't (though it could be a small punch bowl or something similar).

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swarter
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Posts: 2920
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 07-17-2008 02:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dragonflywink:
Lovely pieces, both of them. Wouldn't the meandering design be pricked rather than wriggled?

~Cheryl


This design was produced by pricking with a sharply pointed instrument similar to an awl. "Wigglework" (properly called wrigglework) has been variously defined, but can be considered as a pattern formed by any broken or continuous line, usually sinuous or zigzagging -- it may be scratched, engraved, embossed, pounced, or pricked.

Hollowware was often produced unsigned when supplied to the trade; the retailer did not always add his own mark. Silver produced in Baltimore was required to be marked with a standard mark (usually numerical, ie 10.15, 11, or later 925/1000), but much silver sold in Baltimore was actually made for resale by suppliers in Philadelphia, and could have been provided unmarked. I suspect that since the STERLING mark is incised, and was struck twice, it was added later by a subsequent seller (a not uncommon practice), whomever and wherever he was.

[This message has been edited by swarter (edited 07-17-2008).]

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Scott Martin
Forum Master

Posts: 11202
Registered: Apr 93

iconnumber posted 07-17-2008 03:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I also wondered if there might have been a cover.

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mdhavey

Posts: 164
Registered: Dec 2003

iconnumber posted 07-17-2008 09:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhavey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm wondering what function the vessel would have with a cover?

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Richard Kurtzman
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Posts: 755
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 07-19-2008 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
mdhavey,

Here is a piece that is larger than yours, with a cover, from the Detroit Institute of Arts. They call it a Covered Compote. Your piece also could be called a Covered Centerpiece.

Go to their web site, type in 2005.5.A in the search box and use the zoom feature to see some interesting detail on the base.

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doc

Posts: 701
Registered: Jul 2003

iconnumber posted 07-20-2008 07:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have been enjoying this topic and for some reason it was ringing a bell that I had seen an example of wriggle work on a centerpiece, but couldn't figure out where. Actually, it was staring me in the face. In this month's Silver Magazine, there's an advertisement with a photo of a piece, and the magazine is on my desk open to that page! I was able to copy the photo (I don't think this violates site policy, Scott, but if it does I apologize in advance).

This piece is by Kirk.

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Richard Kurtzman
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Posts: 755
Registered: Aug 2000

iconnumber posted 07-20-2008 01:21 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Richard Kurtzman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Here's a British example.

A sterling etui, London C.1830.


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mdhavey

Posts: 164
Registered: Dec 2003

iconnumber posted 07-20-2008 10:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for mdhavey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm struck by the interest and the quality of the offerings, especially the photographs. All very humbling and appreciated...

mdh

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