Watson Figural "Bacchante" Sterling Silver Cold Meat Fork
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The theme of this 1895 pattern produced by Watson has an interesting origin.
Modeled after a statue designed by Frederick William MacMonnies originally given to the Boston Public Library in 1894 by its architect, Charles Follen McKim, the libertine subject was offensive to the prudish sensibilities of some of Boston's citizenry of the time. The gift was then withdrawn and subsequently presented to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Boston's public attitudes having become less reactionary over time, replicas now stand in that City's Museum of Fine Arts and the Public Library. Watson, a mere forty miles south of Boston in the Providence, Rhode Island area, apparently saw opportunity in the controversy surrounding the work and contemporaneously developed a line of silver flatware based on it.
The image portrays a naked, presumably somewhat intoxicated, female devotee of Bacchus. She is holding a cluster of grapes in one hand and an infant in the other. The detail is sharply rendered, and without wear. The background behind the figures has a frosted surface, which is illustrative of the attention to the elements of design that are incorporated in this composition.
This example is a 7 3/8" long, 1.4 T. oz., cold meat fork.
It has four tines, one of the outer ones of which has a hooked tip. The heel is cupped, while the shoulders are decorated in a scroll design. The overall surface has a satin, gray finish, with a deep, very pale gold wash front and backsides of the tine area.
Without a monogram or removal, it is in exceptionally fine condition, free of polishing wear, or other wear points.
Marks are Watson's Mechanics division pennant emblem and the word "Sterling."
Watson also produced a similar design commonly called "Phoebe." There is uncertainty about whether this is a separate pattern or variant of "Bacchante."