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Author Topic:   The Most Beautiful Piece of Silver in the World
Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 07-26-2008 07:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
[15-0376]

I don't know the answer to this:

    But what do YOU think is the most beautiful piece of silver in the world?
    ("The one that I own" is not really cricket.)
I have to think about this--I've got eight hours of driving today to go get my kids from summer camp.

Clue: What is beauty, anyway?

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bascall

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iconnumber posted 07-26-2008 05:20 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bascall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For me, it's the piece that just attracted me the most, and that changes all the time. It doesn't matter if it's flatware, holloware or jewelry and old or new.

No doubt the actual point of this "excercise" has gone over my head, so this is the best answer that is likely to come from me.

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agphile

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iconnumber posted 07-26-2008 07:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for agphile     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" so I doubt we could ever all agree on a single item. I agree with Bascall that even the individual beholder may have ever-changing preferences. I could offer four trial answers and defend any of them:
  1. An early seal top spoon that my wife gave me on our Silver Wedding. A complete and delightful surprise. My opinion is of course coloured by sentiment, but associations must have some influence on our perception of beauty.

  2. The one that got away. The item I most recently coveted but was not brave enough or rich enough to put in a high enough bid for.

  3. The very first Old English pattern ladle: simple, graceful, form matching function.

  4. A set of soup spoons that we had made for us. We specified the design so they must be absolutely ideal!
And if the above is biased towards flatware, that is the eye of the beholder at work again.

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jersey

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iconnumber posted 07-26-2008 08:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jersey     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My new Sterling Grandson!

Jersey

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ahwt

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iconnumber posted 07-27-2008 11:00 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I would vote for the Maynard dish with the mark of Paul de Lamerie. It is shown on page 85 of the book "Beyond the maker's Mark - Paul de Lamerie Silver in the Cahn Collection", by Ellenor Alcorn. The book has good photos, but I do not think anyone could capture the beauty of this piece or the admiration and wonder that it creates when it is seen in real life.

is shown at this website with some of the other works that were in the exhibit.


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agphile

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iconnumber posted 07-28-2008 07:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for agphile     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
OK. AHWT puts me to shame. Let's try a bit harder and forget my flatware obsession.


I wondered about something like the Burghley Nef:

However that is perhaps more an impressive piece than one of simple beauty.

The piece of silver I would most love to own and that I think is beautiful work of art by any standards is this little figurine, found not too far from where I live:

Dating from 1250 - 1350 and found at Mundensbury Farm, Great Munden, Hertfordshire in 1999, this is the unidentified standing figure of a priest, apostle or saint, only about 1� inches high. Elongated stance, head covered by hood, tunic belted at waist, flowing drapery is split on the sides to reveal decorative embroidered lining. Right hand in front of chest, left hand sadly broken off.

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 07-28-2008 10:28 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Although I realize what a completely subjective answer this must be...I've always loved the pair of tureens by Meissonier for the Duke of Kingston, one of which (the Cleveland example) is in the current rococo show at the Cooper-Hewitt.

It was a trick question, because I know this depends on what it is about silver that floats your boat. I don't know if I could even answer this question dispassionately about the Museum's collection, or even about the pieces I've acquired for the collection...

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ellabee

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iconnumber posted 07-28-2008 12:12 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ellabee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I looked through the books I have, trying to gauge my reactions, and it keeps coming back to a salver by Jacob Hurd from the Garvan collection at Yale.

For a higher-resolution view, go to the Yale Art Museum and search on accession number 1940.125. The salver is also pictured on page 152 of Silver in American Life.

For this question, I put aside technical achievement and impressiveness, and just concentrated on my own desire to look at the object. I found that what appeals to me most are relatively plain objects with some engraving or chasing, but that are not covered with decoration. The contrast is an important part of the appeal.

But, on the other hand, I remember being similarly riveted by a picture in a book I don't have, a Bigelow & Kennard trompe l'oeil piece that simulates a fringed fabric; it's in Venable's Century of Splendor. That's the image that came to mind when I first read Ulysses' question.

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ellabee

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iconnumber posted 07-28-2008 01:05 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ellabee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
If I could have any piece of silver in the world, I would want this one.

Production details from the book Silver by Jessie McNab:

quote:
The figure was made from fifteen or more pieces of silver sheet, soldered together and modeled from the inside by tooling. The facial lines and design on the skirt are chased.

Circa 3000 B.C.E., from southwestern Iran. It's in the Metropolitan.

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Polly

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iconnumber posted 07-28-2008 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I second Ulysses. I've been back to the Cooper-Hewitt show four times so far just to stare at that thing again.

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dragonflywink

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iconnumber posted 07-28-2008 09:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Pondered on this one for some time, and all the pieces shown and mentioned, have without doubt, their own special beauty. For myself, some of the mixed metal Japanese-inspired pieces by Tiffany and Gorham take my breath away, as do a number of the sinuous and richly enameled Liberty Cymric pieces. One piece that is engraved in my mind is a mid 18th century tea canister by Danish silversmith Jens Isachsen Friis (pictured in Boesen & Bøje's Old Danish Silver), its elegant simplicity never fails to delight me. At the other end of the spectrum is a late 19th century Dragestil drinking horn by Norwegian maker Henrik B. Møller (pictured in Widar Halen's Dragons from the North), the density of detail and grotesquely wonderful dragon just fascinates me and I find it quite beautiful in a very different way.

~Cheryl

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swarter
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iconnumber posted 07-28-2008 10:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for swarter     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
This is one of two large silver microscopes made for King George !!! and the Prince of Wales (later George !V) about 1763 by George Adams. It is made of "brass covered with beaten silver" (Sheffield silver).

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 07-29-2008 09:50 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That Hurd salver at Yale is a piece I've actually handled, back when I was a student and they made us polish the silver (!!!).

I have to say, the cow offering the goblet of whatever is amazing--the face on the cow (bull?) is amazing. Just goes to show, it's all terribly subjective.

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bascall

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iconnumber posted 07-29-2008 06:47 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for bascall     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Borrowing from a Lillian Beckwith book title this for me is "Beautiful Just."

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ellabee

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iconnumber posted 07-30-2008 12:25 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ellabee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
How were the Meissonier and de Lamerie pieces produced?

In the tureen, for example, were the shells and lobster cast and applied? What about the decoration in the center and around the sides of the plate?

I realize how little I understand about silver production as I study these two pieces.

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ellabee

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iconnumber posted 07-30-2008 12:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ellabee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The more I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that virtually the entire tureen must be cast; likewise the decoration on the Maynard plate. So the incredible skill begins with the production of the molds...

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ellabee

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iconnumber posted 07-30-2008 05:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ellabee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wanting a closer look at the tureen, I went to the Cooper-Hewitt site. Didn't get a better image, but did pick up the information that while the tureens and platters were designed by Meissonnier, they were made by Henri-Guillaume Adnet and Francois Bonnestrenne (the older of the two craftsmen by quite a bit).

Then, on a hunt for information about casting, came across this highly relevant passage on p. 19 of Silver:

quote:
In the eighteenth century, during the rococo period, cast relief additions were soldered onto raised or cast bodies of highly decorated wares. Although their names are unknown and unsung, the artists who carved the wooden models from which molds were made for casting the metal were indirectly responsible for the elan of the finished work. They were probably independent artisans not employed in the silversmith's shop itself, although many may have worked regularly to the orders of a particular silversmith.

So, possibly, M. Bonnestrenne carved the molds from Meissonnier's drawings, while M. Adnet did the casting and soldering?

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blakstone

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iconnumber posted 07-31-2008 02:01 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have a copy of Sotheby's sale catalogue for the tureen (New York, May 13, 1998, sale #7146); the lavishly-illustrated 98-page catalogue is devoted exclusively to the tureen's history and construction, with biographies of its designer, makers and original owner.

Bonnestrenne made the stand/underplate; Adnet made the tureen and cover. From the catalogue: "The Kingston tureen is composed of dozens of separate cast parts, all rendered by the lost wax process, then soldered on, as on the cover, held together by screws or riveted pins." The body was cast in two parts, it says, while the crab on the lid alone was cast in no less than fourteen parts, the molds probably taken from nature! The pieces were refined by chasing before assembly and finished by selective burnishing afterwards, to heighten the difference in textures and control the play of light.

It is a remarkable work of art. I can honestly say that I had little appreciation for the rococo until I saw this piece; it literally changed my opinion of an entire aesthetic, and taught me a whole new way of seeing.

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ellabee

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iconnumber posted 07-31-2008 02:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ellabee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks so much for that information, blakstone.

Whoa. An entire catalogue devoted to one piece. Granted, an unusually complex and magnificent height-of-style-and-quality piece. Now I'm even more envious of those of you who took the opportunity to see it up close.

What was the Cleveland Museum's winning bid? (I'm assuming this is within the guidelines, as this item is off the market and out of all of our realms.)

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ellabee

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iconnumber posted 07-31-2008 02:42 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ellabee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Apologies for this digression into commerce. Will return to beauty hereafter.

From the International Herald Tribune in 1999:

quote:
The story of the rococo pair of tureens commissioned in 1734 by the Duke of Kingston and designed by Juste-Aurele Meissonier is an apt symbol of the return of the J.P. Morgan era.

In 1909 the pair was sold at auction in Paris. It was bought by Morgan via Jacques Seligmann, a famous dealer acting as his agent. When the pair resurfaced at auction in 1977 at Christie's in Geneva, it fetched $1.1 million, and was broken up.

One tureen went to the Cleveland Museum of Art, the other to the great European collector, Baron Heinz Thyssen-Bornemisza.

On May 13 last year, that same piece, consigned by Baron Thyssen, sold at Sotheby's New York for $5.72 million the second highest price ever paid for silver. Europe has now lost the pair.


Christie's likewise had a catalogue devoted to the tureens when they were being sold in 1977, though from the listing at an antique-books dealer it doesn't sound quite as elaborate or informative as the Sotheby version.

Appropriate to the forum, if not the thread: many thanks to the Cleveland Museum for making this masterpiece available to the public.

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ellabee

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iconnumber posted 07-31-2008 03:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ellabee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Cheryl, thanks for your reference to Liberty & Co. work. The resulting exploration turned up many images that appeal to my sense of beauty (of the approachable sort, as opposed to the awe that the Meissonnier tureens induce).

Here are two, from the sold archives of a British firm specializing in late-19th and early-20th century art nouveau and Jugendstil etc. work.

C.R. Ashbee, British, 1905.

Kate Harris, British, 1902.

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ahwt

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iconnumber posted 07-31-2008 04:15 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The Persian cow is a delight to see and I can imagine the great and wonderful stories that went with this image. I wish we were still using myths and stories in our culture of today.

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salmoned

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iconnumber posted 07-31-2008 07:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for salmoned     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ahwt, I can't imagine what you mean, - our culture is rife with myths. Virtually every aspect of our various shared belief systems is based on misinterpreted, unexamined myths - from creation to ultimate disposition. Even the non-mythical Theory of Evolution is fraught with mythical appurtenances. Were it not so, we wouldn't be quite so oblivious to the natural and obvious answers to our current worldwide problems. Oops, don't get me going...

I, too, appreciate that object. The look of the eye reminds me of the Mona Lisa - knowing, self-aware and of equal stature with the viewer. The feminine lower portion combines with the bovine upper in an aesthetic representation of life-giving nourishment and service to both body and mind. From another perspective, it appears a piece of quintessential kitsch - amusing and modern in the extreme. I find this bipolar aspect extremely diverting.

[This message has been edited by salmoned (edited 07-31-2008).]

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Polly

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iconnumber posted 07-31-2008 08:19 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Polly     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm enjoying this thread so much! More opinions & pictures, please, everyone. I want to see more superlative treasures.

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dragonflywink

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iconnumber posted 07-31-2008 08:49 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Add me to the admirers of the lovely cow lady - she is entrancing.

Ellabee - have been a fan of British Arts & Crafts since my teens, not just the metalware, but also furniture, textiles, etc. Have always liked the pieces Kate Harris designed for Hutton & Sons, and the sensuous lines of the one you show makes it one of my favorites - believe the same design is in one of the British museums (though which one eludes me at the moment).

~Cheryl

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ellabee

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iconnumber posted 08-01-2008 04:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ellabee     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That dragon belongs in 'Great Faces in Silver' if he isn't there already!

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 08-25-2008 09:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
That Kate Harris piece is DA BOMB! Georgian art nouveau at its most perfect.

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doc

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iconnumber posted 08-25-2008 09:51 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for doc     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to agree, Ulysses. I had not seen this piece before, and it really is spectacular.

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dragonflywink

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iconnumber posted 06-27-2010 08:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Ran across this 1903 Goldsmiths & Silversmiths Co. ad showing the Kate Harris designed piece above (would love to look through the catalogue offered).

~Cheryl

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 07-26-2010 03:09 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Anyone want to guess what this baby is? I had never seen it and we discovered it (another curator and I) in the Museum's storage area. It was given to us in 1920.

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Scott Martin
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iconnumber posted 07-26-2010 03:16 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Scott Martin     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Very beautiful. Who made it and how is it marked.

Would we get a hint if we saw the inside and/or the bottom?

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ahwt

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iconnumber posted 07-26-2010 04:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for ahwt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Looks like a rooster egg basket.

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dragonflywink

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iconnumber posted 07-26-2010 06:27 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The beautiful detail, denseness of the floral decoration and mixed metals make me think of some Meiji period Japanese silver I've seen.

~Cheryl

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Ulysses Dietz
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iconnumber posted 07-27-2010 11:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Ulysses Dietz     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Cheryl is such a ringer! It is indeed a tiny little Meiji covered box--just 2.5 inches wide and 2.75 inches high. It is signed, in Japanese, on the bottom. "Kinzan" was the maker, or the workshop that produced it. The Japanese loved such finely detailed work--but it had huge influence on the west as well.

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dragonflywink

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iconnumber posted 07-27-2010 02:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dragonflywink     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Wow, assumed it was fairly small, but that is a tiny little stunner! An 1870 article in The Builder, a British publication, on "The Decorative Art of Japan" states, "No European silversmith, bronzist, or other worker in metal can emulate, or can altogether comprehend, the wonderful chasing, inlaying, tinting, and inexplicable transforming of metallic substances, effected by the Japanese metal-workers." And here's an interesting short article from an 1893 Jewelers' Circular on "Quaint Japanese Exhibits" at the Colombian Exposition:

~Cheryl

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Nyoman

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iconnumber posted 04-19-2011 08:03 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Nyoman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
For me the most beautiful piece of silver in the world is the sons of liberty bowl made by Paul Revere currently housed in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

While more eye dazzling objects could be easily found, it would be hard to argue that the bowl represents the most beautiful thought of our time, that being the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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