Object Place: Rochester, New York, United States
5 5/16 x 8 5/16 x 6 1/8 in. (13.5 x 21 x 15.5 cm); troy weight: 23 oz 16 dwt 4 gr (740.5 gm)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The raised elliptical bowl has a gently curved rim with a thick applied molding at edge. A concave neck descends from the rim, turning outward to an angled shoulder that curves down to an elliptical fabricated foot ring composed of ogee sections.
New York artist Bernard Bernstein is a 1963 graduate of the School for American Craftsmen at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He has been a working silversmith, teacher, and writer for more than forty years. As a young craftsman,
Bernstein’s work was accepted in two national exhibitions, beginning with the groundbreaking “Young Americans,” held at the Museum of Contemporary Arts (now the Museum of Arts & Design) in 1958, and the 1959 “Fiber-Clay-Metal” exhibition in St. Paul, Minnesota. His early work consisted of jewelry and some domestic hollowware, as seen in this elliptical bowl; over time he specialized in religious and academic silver. He fashioned a mace for the City College of New York and many examples of Judaica for synagogues nationwide. A torah crown and a pair of torah finials are in the permanent collection of the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
From 1962 to 1988, Bernstein taught in the Department of Industrial Education at the City College of New York. Since then, he has held Judaica silversmithing workshops at the Ninety-second Street YMCA.
This work was produced at a key moment when Bernstein was studying for his master’s degree at the School for American Craftsmen, under the guidance of Hans Christensen (1924 – 1983), professor of metalsmithing. With its swooping lip and softly curving sides, the bowl owes a debt to the aesthetics of midcentury Scandinavian silver as taught by his Danish-born professor.
An elliptical vessel, with its sharply delineated shoulder, is more challenging to produce than spherical forms. Even more difficult was the ogee-shaped foot ring on this example, which Bernstein chose to fabricate rather than follow Christensen’s suggestion to use a scroll saw to cut the shape from sheet metal. These aesthetic and technical choices were based in Bernstein’s desire to set a high standard for his work, regardless of the time and effort required. His viewpoint echoes the sentiments of Arts and Crafts silversmiths, who often chose more difficult construction techniques, believing these were more in keeping with preindustrial standards.
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.
On base of vessel is engraved “B. BERNSTEIN / 1960;” stamped “STERLING” in sans-serif capitals; maker’s monogram, an angular figure-eight form is stamped near center point.
Made by the donor in 1960 and retained by him until given to the Museum in 2000.
Gift of the artist
Copyright 1960 Bernard Bernstein