DescriptionA Large William Gale & Son Coin Silver Two-Handled Tray, New York, 1851
Marks: WM GALE & SON, G&S (oval-circle-diamond) 1851, 116 FULTON ST, NEW YORK
2-1/2 x 37-1/2 x 23 inches (6.4 x 95.3 x 58.4 cm)
Sotheby's New York, January 27, 1983, lot 98
Sotheby's New York, NY, January 30, 1986, lot 362
Sotheby's New York, January 25-26 , 2013, lot 207
Heritage Auctions, May 8, 2014, lot 68001
Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2020-21
The rectangular tray with cast wave and foliate handles, egg and dart band to edge of raised rim, engraved ground of scroll-work with architectural and animal images framing central cartouche. Included with this lot are 7 of the 8 volumes of Oliver Goldsmith's A History of the Earth and Animated Nature (London, 1774-1790).
The architectural and animal images come from wide-ranging engraved sources, available in the mid-19th century. A cohesive iconography is not apparent, but rather the tray appears to be either an exhibition piece or a shop sample, showcasing the skill and repertoire of the engravers at Gale's command.
Surrounding the central cartouche are architectural images. Conway Castle in Wales appears on the left, based on an engraving first published in 1838 from Thomas Dugdale's "The Curiosities of Great Britain" and to the right a view of Monticello which appeared on the front page of the "Rural Repository" (Hudson, NY), July 16, 1842. Below the central cartouche is Mt. Vernon, from an 1839 aquatint published by the Apollo Association based on John Gadsby Chapman' "Mt. Vernon Looking Down the River", 1836.
Surronding the architectural scenes are animals taken primarily from Oliver Goldsmith's A History of the Earth and Animated Nature. First published in 1774 in eight volumes, the set was added to in subsequent editions. By mid-century the volumes included engravings of the parrot, beaver, buzzard, lion, puma, tiger, leopard and deer group found clock-wise on the tray. The only source exception is the leopard lounging amidst tree limbs at the upper left corner. A mirror image of the leopard is found on the front page of The Penny Magazine: of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, January 5, 1833.
It took me over a decade to acquire this tray, but once I did it turned into a major research project. The elaborate engraving and international subject matter make it one of the great masterpieces in American silver. From our Founding Fathers to exotic animals, this huge tray brings all the world together in one place. Mind blowing! CV
Property from the Collection of Dr. Charles L. Venable
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