Silver tray

about 1929
Frans J. R. Gyllenberg (1883–1974), Alfred Henry Swanson (American, 1899–1978)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Dimensions

3.6 x 36.3 x 21.3 cm (1 7/16 x 14 5/16 x 8 3/8 in.)

Accession Number

1985.56

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

Probably form-pressed on wood, this raised shallow dish with two soldered, keyhole, pierce-cut handles has a soldered foot and rim.


Frans Gyllenberg probably served an apprenticeship in his native Sweden before moving to Boston and joining Handicraft Shop in 1906.1 The following year Gyllenberg became a craftsman member of the Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, and was promoted to master status in 1910.2 Gyllenberg is listed in society records as having a bench in the Boston Handicraft shops at 42 Stanhope Street (1908 – 1913) and at 516 Atlantic Avenue (1914 – 1927). In 1929 Gyllenberg was elected a medalist craftsman, the society’s highest honor.
Letters in the society’s archives reveal that Gyllenberg was often recommended to clients who wanted to commission matching silver pieces for an existing set. Correspondence further relates that, although Gyllenberg’s prices tended to be higher than those of other silversmiths, he was the best craftsman for this work and always prompt in filling orders. Gyllenberg participated in the annual exhibitions organized by the society in Boston and Chicago, entering brass candlesticks and small silver wares such as bells, salt spoons, and salt cellars of his own designs as well as metalwork he executed that was designed by fellow Handicraft member Mary Knight (see cat. nos. 267–269)
The society occasionally featured Gyllenberg’s work in advertisements in magazines such as Arts and Decoration and International Studio. In fact, this sandwich tray is identical to one illustrated in an article on contemporary American silversmiths from the society. Although the maker is unidentified, the work is probably by Gyllenberg and perhaps also his assistant Alfred Swanson, with whom he formed a partnership at the shop about 1926.
Gyllenberg established his reputation with reproductions of colonial silver, most notably replicas of works by Paul Revere now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts. Some of his patrons, however, preferred work that adapted colonial forms to modern uses, such as this sandwich tray. Slightly shallower than the traditional mid-eighteenth-century porringer, the piece also has an extra handle and a foot that are lacking in colonial models. Gyllenberg and Swanson’s popular colonial-revival-style wares sold well until the Depression, when the partners moved their bench to a garage on Van Brunt Avenue in Dedham, Massachusetts, a Boston suburb. Eventually they turned to automobile repair to earn a living.

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

“1929” engraved on one handle; “B / PC,” with two notches on top of each other below “B” and between “P C,” engraved on other handle.

Markings

“G / F J R / A.H.S. / STERLING / 5 9 2” struck incuse on bottom.

Provenance

Original owner unknown. Subsequent owner unknown until purchased from Brodney Gallery of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, with funds provided by the donors.

Credit Line

Gift of Mrs. Irvin Taube in memory of Anne Murphy Holmes