Rare Gorham Banko Iron and Sterling Silver Vase
In the Japanesque style, of ovoid form with flared rim, the body applied with a writhing dragon, crabs and trails of sand. Height 9 1/4 inches.
In 1854 Admiral Matthew C. Perry opened the Japanese Empire to the West and their closed society and its relatively unknown arts and crafts took the West by storm. Western artisans and craftsmen first became acquainted with the wonderful images of Japanese woodblock prints and examples of mixed metal objects at the London Exposition of 1862 and again at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876.
Japanese craftsmen's mixing a variety of metals for decorative purposes was an entirely new concept to Western silversmiths and metalworkers, and the two greatest makers of this new mixed metal fashion in the Japanese taste were Tiffany & Co. and Gorham. Their skilled craftsmen incorporated design inspiration from Japanese woodblock prints using robed figures, dragons, birds, crabs, fish, insects, flowering prunus branches, and other elements from nature to great effect. They also took inspiration from Japanese artisans using a variety of different textures on the same object, often leaving the hammered surface of the object deliberately "unfinished". The notion that a hammered surface should suggest that a piece was handmade took hold later during the Arts and Crafts period and by the early 1900s hammered surfaces became almost commonplace.
For one year only in 1883, Gorham experimented with a line they called Banko Iron Ware which used a rough textured iron body patinated in a deep red-brown to which were applied silver and/or copper dragons, figures, and natural elements seen on other lines of mixed metalwork.
Few pieces of Banko Iron Ware find themselves in the marketplace due to the limited production and rarity. A small number are included in an exhibition currently at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum through December 1, 2019 Gorham Silver: Designing Brilliance 1859-1970, curated by Elizabeth Williams.
We are thankful to Elizabeth Williams for information provided to Doyle for cataloging purposes.
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