What do these four silver flatware patterns have in common?
If you answered that they’re all Gorham, you’re correct. But there’s an even more interesting connection – the same designer conceptualized all four patterns: F. Antoine Heller.
F. Antoine Heller was born in France in 1845, and the Beaux Arts movement in France greatly influenced his development as an artist. He came to America in the late 1870s to work for Tiffany & Co., where some suggest that he helped design the celebrated Olympian pattern. After seeing his work for Tiffany, Gorham quickly lured the French designer away.
Heller’s first pattern for Gorham, Fontainebleau, appeared in 1882 and was featured on the cover of that year’s catalog. Like many of his other flatware patterns, the service featured a variety of motifs on each terminal. In this case, characters from the court of Francis I adorn the silver. From the minute details in each character’s clothing to the intricate treatment of the space behind the figures, the pattern perfectly captures the Beaux Arts aesthetic. The academic nature in which Heller looked to the past for inspiration also stems from the Beaux Arts movement. Even some of his non-figural patterns, such as St. Cloud and Cluny, take their names and inspiration from real places with historical significance: Château de Saint-Cloud and The Hôtel de Cluny respectively.
Mythologique may be Heller’s most celebrated pattern, and featured not only single characters, but entire figural scenes. Introduced in 1894, the fine silver flatware set includes twenty-four different mythological subjects. Each terminal features a character or several characters inspired from Greek myths, supported on a stem with various classical motifs such as fluted columns and anthemion. The Luxembourg Museum in Paris acquired their own Mythologique service for their collection in 1896.
The upcoming Fine Silver auction on October 5, 2013 features a number of multi-motif, figural flatware services designed by F. Antoine Heller for Gorham. Stop by the auction preview in Boston on October 3rd or 4th to take a look.