Grape shears

1909–1945
George Christian Gebelein (American, born in Germany, 1878–1945)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Dimensions

15.75 x 40.64 cm (6 3/16 x 16 in.)

Accession Number

1987.74

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver flatware

The cast handles of the fancy grape shears are decorated with three-dimensional grapes and vine leaves, which have been chased to refine the ornament. The pivot hinge and surface show wear consistent with regular use.


George Christian Gebelein played a key role in the development of the handicraft movement in Boston during the early twentieth century. Born in Bavaria, he was brought to this country as an infant and, at age fourteen, was apprenticed to Goodnow and Jenks (1893 – 1905), a Boston silversmithing firm. Upon completing his apprenticeship, he moved to New York, where he worked at Tiffany & Co., and then Concord, New Hampshire, to continue his career with William B. Durgin and Company.1 By 1903 he had returned to Boston and joined Handicraft Shop, and in 1905 he became a craftsman member of the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston (he was elected a medalist in 1919). In 1908 Gebelein achieved master status at the society and, the following year, opened his own shop at 79 Chestnut Street, with the help of David Mason Little (1860 – 1923), his patron and student (see cat. no. 425). Gebelein Silversmiths maintained this location and continued to be productive until Gebelein’s death in 1945.
These grape shears reflect Gebelein’s early training in a nineteenth-century shop, demonstrating his fluency in styles other than the colonial revival, for which he is best known.

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.

Inscription

None.

Markings

“G [in Gothic letter] / GEBELEIN / STERLING” struck incuse on underside of blade.

Provenance

Descended in the family of silversmith George C. Gebelein (1878 – 1945). Purchased from the estate of J. Herbert Gebelein (1906 – 1986), George’s son, with funds provided by the donor.

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by Gertrude S. Atwood