Saturday, May 19, 2007

Georgia Museum of Art exhibition highlighted examples of State’s silver

From Sideboard to Pulpit: Silver in Georgia, an exhibition that highlighted numerous previously undocumented examples of silver retailed or made in Georgia, was on display through March 26 at the Georgia Museum of Art.

Throughout history, silver has been recognized as a luxury material representing the wealth of its owners or crafters. The acquisition and display of silver items in Georgia, whether in frontier towns or culturally rich cities, has expressed the desires of Georgians to attain and convey success.

From Sideboard to Pulpit: Silver in Georgia offerred more than 100 examples of silver made, retailed, owned or presented in Georgia, primarily during the 19th century. It featured works by a variety of silversmiths, some native Georgians and others from outside the state. Some of the pieces on display include objects by Frederick Marquand, one of Georgia’s most beloved silversmiths, and Savannah’s Maria Regnier, who fashioned a silver pie server featured in the exhibition.

This exhibition had a heavy focus on “presentation” silver, which featured an inscription honoring a particular individual or organization in connection with a special event or service. The inscription on the silver forever documents the particular person or event, thus making it an important artifact of public history.

Particularly in the 1800's, silver was frequently used for recognizing achievements or honoring public service and rites of passage. One of the most interesting pieces of presentation silver in the exhibition was an important recent acquisition made by the Georgia Museum of Art—a silver pitcher marked by Baldwin Gardiner of New York and presented by the congregation of First Presbyterian Church in Augusta to the Rev. Samuel K. Talmage in 1836.

Talmage had spent almost a decade at the church before leaving to serve as president of Oglethorpe University, and the pitcher was given to him as a token of appreciation for his service. A near-identical pitcher is part of the collection at the Museum of the City of New York. That pitcher also was engraved in 1836 and marked by Gardiner, and was used for presentation by the directors of the West Chester County Bank in Peekskill, N.Y. The selection of the same pitcher by members of Augusta’s First Presbyterian Church reinforces the sophistication of Southern taste.

This exhibition was not comprehensive in its approach to silver in Georgia, choosing instead to define “Georgia silver” and add to existing scholarship on the subject. From Sideboard to Pulpit: Silver in Georgia is one of the largest exhibitions of Georgia silver in recent decades and will make directly accessible to Georgians the beauty of the silver that has played mute witness to this state’s history. ©UGA Office of Public Affiars

Georgia Museum of Art