Gold two-handled cup
Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
7.62 x 30.73 x 21.34 cm (3 x 12 1/8 x 8 3/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The bowl of the diminutive hand-wrought gold vessel is elliptical, with a fluted dot-punched rim. The scrolled handles are documented as having been cast in a cuttlefish mold, and the bowl is set on a foot with faint beading and a scalloped edge. This dish is in remarkably fine condition despite the material’s malleability.
After establishing his shop at 79 Chestnut Street in 1909, Gebelein concentrated on designing and overseeing the output of his skilled employees, who focused on production. In 1914, despite increasing demands as proprietor and manager of this busy enterprise, Gebelein personally executed a number of items, among them this gold cup, for exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Traditionally, silversmiths worked in both silver and gold and, occasionally, base metals; in the United States, however, they rarely fashioned gold objects, and then only on special order. Undertaken as an exhibition piece, not a commission, this cup was designed and executed by Gebelein as a demonstration of his mastery of the metalworker’s art, that is, his great technical skill and refined aesthetic. It is said that Gebelein raised the cup from a sheet he had hammered from melted gold filings, a remarkable effort supposedly undertaken to obtain a metal content purer than that commercially available. In addition, although cast handles were available through the trade, Gebelein is purported to have modeled these by making the molds and casting them himself.
Precious in material, skillful in execution, and adapted from venerated eighteenth-century English and American silverwares, this work was heralded at the time as the consummate example of the goldsmith’s craft. Gebelein’s peers signaled their high esteem by awarding a bronze medal to this and his other entries at the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. In retrospect, however, this particular vessel does not hold up to the high standards of other work produced by Gebelein Silversmiths. Gebelein assigned to it a value of $150, a significant sum in 1914, when he sent it to Chicago. He never sold it, retaining it as a demonstration piece in his shop and sales office before removing it to his home as a personal memento.
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.
“18 K G [in Gothic letter] GEBELEIN” struck on body near rim, to right of one handle.
Descended in the family of silversmith George C. Gebelein to his son Arthur D. Gebelein and his grandchildren — Mrs. Eleanor Gebelein Greene, Mrs. Margaretha Gebelein Leighton, Mr. Ernest G. Gebelein — who donated it to the Museum.
Gift of the Family of George Christian Gebelein