During the second half of the nineteenth century, there was burgeoning interest in the designs of the Middle East, Japan, and China. This passion for all things that were “exotic” in the eyes of Americans led to a craze for objects inspired by these international decorative arts. At the time, much of the silver created by Tiffany and Co. was made in Revival styles, like rococo and neo-classical. This reliance on revival changed when Edward C. Moore was hired as the chief silversmith of Tiffany and Co., as Moore began to find new sources of inspiration. Moore possessed his own collection of Islamic decorative arts, and his assemblage included Iznik pottery, Mamluk metalwork, and Persian enameled and blown glass. Moore adapted many of the sources he saw in his collection for creating his silver designs. For example, the form of this pitcher strongly resembles a dragon-handled jug of Safavid origin that was a part of Moore’s collection. Both objects possess a low, squat body and a surface entirely covered by patterns. [1]

Remarkably, with this Islamic inspiration, Moore also incorporated a type of silver style that originated in Maryland. The body of this object is decorated in the “Baltimore Style,” which was a floral pattern first popularized by Samuel Kirk and Son. This extravagant style was widely popular with Victorians. Although Kirk and Son released this style some 30 years before this pitcher was created, it continued to be in fashion throughout the nineteenth century, as silver makers like Moore poached this pattern to use on their own forms. The silver method of making this pitcher is known as “repoussé,” which is a process in which the design is hammered from the inside of the object to create raised decoration on the outside of it. This vessel was also “chased,” meaning it was hammered and refined from the outside of the body to create patterns that drive inward.

[1]Elizabeth L Kerr Fish, “Edward C. Moore and Tiffany Islamic-Style Silver, C. 1867-1889.” Studies in the Decorative Arts 6, no. 2 (1999): 42-63.

Elizabeth Muir is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Fellow in the Product Design and Decorative Arts Department. She is primarily interested in 20th century design and decorative arts. 

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