When trying to decide what my next article’s subject will be, sometimes I just walk through my home and think about one of my favorite subject areas, or at least I will look at what is hanging on my walls. And, when I did just that, I remembered that I haven’t written about the beautiful art nouveau sterling silver tray in my photo today.
And, while I am on the subject of what is setting on my Victorian “Man of the North” or “North Wind” carved hat or clothes rack, I might mention the oval picture frame on the top right corner of my photo holds a small embroidery scene that my son’s great grandmother (Grandma Tripp) embroidered for us one year. It is a Christmas scene of the birth of Christ. I was always buying kits for her to embroider for us so she could stay busy with her hands. Little did I know, she had this one done in just a couple of hours. It turned out so pretty, I decided to frame it and I have kept it all these years.
My art nouveau silver boudoir or dressing table tray has hallmarks on the back so I am positive it is sterling and it even has the maker’s marks, as well. This would have been made between 1890 and 1910 — actually falling into the Victorian era as well. This is why it is sometimes difficult to separate the two, however the Victorian period did run from the 1880s to the 1920s — and possibly even earlier.
When the lady of the house would have her own dressing table and bench (or chair) in their bedroom, she would gently lay her jewelry for that day into this tray placed on her table or desk. Sometimes the tray would hold hair brushes which may have matched the style of the tray. Many times, they might have matching clothing, lint brushes or maybe a button hook lying on this tray, too.
The design on this tray would be considered to be “repoussé” — a certain pattern or technique working from the reverse or back side of a piece of metal to make the pattern even more profuse and definite. Some would call it a raised metal design or pattern. It is absolutely beautiful and seemed to just flow or never end like a flowing river without any banks. I love the style but I am afraid I would be totally out of character in that time period. I am more of a jeans and cowgirl boot gal, if you know what I mean. But, I love the old movies with these styles in them, for instance, “Gone With The Wind” could be considered a Victorian style film with their long beautiful gowns and their ornate picture and painting frames, and the style of their furniture. However, “Gone With The Wind” was cast as a Civil War era film, of course, about 20 years earlier than the art nouveau period. But, please remember that many styles are just combinations of other styles from prior eras — or a combination of styles and/or designs borrowed from another time period and mixed in with the present designs.
The art nouveau period presented women with long beautiful flowing hair. There were definitely cherubs and angels — even fairies — that were designed into the style of art nouveau. And, I cannot forget the lovely scroll work and the gorgeous designs with flowers or a floral motif. All of the above are combined into the works of metal — mainly sterling silver — which we can enjoy with just about any style of living you wish to add to it. I think even the name, art nouveau, creates a sound of flowing energy and reminds us all of a very different time and a different way of life.
As I watch pricing on the internet these days regarding “true” antiques, it seems they are all over the place. It is very difficult to appraise today so many will just consider the sterling silver content as if it were melted down — ouch — which is one thing I hate to see happen. When sterling is sold only for the silver content, it scares me somedays to think about all those beautiful antiques and treasures being lost forever. We do what we need to do — I understand that times are much different today, but I pray that not all of our beautiful pieces will be melted down and reused for other purposes. We need to save as much of the past as we possibly can for the future — our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The story needs to be told over and over again — remind our younger generations about the hard times of years ago and our war times, and don’t forget the beautiful times between the wars when most everyone was rejoicing over our freedoms.
Art nouveau is a truly fine and elegantly classy style for clothing, furniture, jewelry, paintings and many other things. Its just another beautiful part of American history.