Jug #: 892
An exhibition silver-gilt, enamel, and jewel-mounted claret jug, Gorham Mfg. Co., Providence, R.I., 1893, of baluster form, the domed foot with strapwork, Baccus heads, and enamelled wings. The oval body glass overlaid with strapwork and gem-set, enclosing two large enamel plaques of "Venus and the Sleeping Adonis" and "The Birth of Venus" and a small enamel plaque with two mermaids, the neck and spout with strapwork and floral motifs against blue, red and white enamelled grounds, gem set, the gem-set double scroll handle in the form of a bird with enamelled body and wings, numbered and marked on Base 4854 in an oval and date mark for 1893. Ht: 16 1/4". According to Samuel J. Hough, this jug was one of the centerpieces of Gorham's display at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Made specifically for the Fair, it was finished June 1, 1893. The piece required 125 hours of fabrication and 300 hours of chasing. The piece was then sent to New York for setting the stones and enameling. The enamel, both the decorative grounds and the Venus panels, was executed by the Hungarian artist, G. DeFestetics, who spent over 378 hours at a cost of $350.00. Many of Gorham's offerings in 1893 were designed by William C. Codman, such as the Nautilus centerpiece. Although Codman's name cannot be tied directly to this jug, its feel is similar to the Designer's work at this period.
Gorham's enamel work was a success at the 1893 Exposition, and the company received seven awards for this technique alone. A pamphlet published by the Firm in 1894 about its display records that "it is scarcely a year since the Gorham Company commenced the production of translucent enamels, yet this work is of such a high order that one of the German Commissioners at the Fair has purchased a specimen of it...to be placed in the Royal Kunstgewerbe Museum of Berlin." Gorham's records reveal that the Company was prepared to take only $44.00 profit on this piece which had cost $800.00 to manufacture for exhibition purposes, immediate financial gain was secondary to art and recognition.