by Wood and Hughes
We chose this month’s featured museum piece, a “tazza” by Wood and Hughes Silver Company, not only for its stunning beauty but for its interesting (some would say mysterious!) origins. “Tazza” is the Italian word for footed compote. We continue to gather interesting information regarding this piece, and we wanted to share with you what our expert and tenacious hollowware staff has found so far. We believe the piece was produced some time between 1865 and 1871. It stands 12 1/2” tall and has a diameter of 11 1/2.” The backstamp simply reads “W & H 900/1000”, with sources indicating that the Wood and Hughes Company used the “W & H” backstamp between 1833 and 1871.
Detail of Tazza Stem
The artistic elements of the tazza are indicative of the latter half of the 19th century, when a convergence of artistic movements occurred. We can see this convergence in the formation of the stem and medallion that appears in the center of the tazza’s bowl. The stem is done in the form of a lady, similar to the figural ornament one would see on the bow of an ancient ship. The many intricate scrolls that create the curvaceous shape of the stem are characteristic of silver artistry from the Art Nouveau period; a period that featured scrollwork inspired by natural elements and organic freeform. The etched details that appear on the rim, feet, and sides of the pieces are influenced by the Greco-Roman revival art style. Characteristics of the Greco-Roman styling of the tazza can be found in the medallion located in the center of the bowl. The round medallion features what appears to be Poseidon, Greek god of the sea. To his right is a woman who could possibly be his wife, Amphitrite. Above his head, she is holding a fish. Beneath Poseidon’s throne are several symbols of the sea, including a piece of coral, a large fish or ancient sea monster, two smaller fish, and a series of waves. The positioning of these symbols beneath a Greco-Roman throne would likely be used to indicate Poseidon’s dominion over the sea. The anomalous parts of the medallion are the elfin man genuflecting before the assumed god and the cherub that appears to the figure’s left. Cherubs and elves were not characteristic of the classical period and would not have appeared until the medieval period.
Our hollowware experts speculate that the tazza may have been produced for a sailor, someone who loved the sea, or as an artistic tribute to the sea. The bottom of the medallion says “H. Hubert Fee.” This may have been the recipient of the tazza or the name of the artist who rendered this stunning silver art work. We can only surmise who “Hubert Fee” was, but he must have been very pleased with this beautifully complex piece of silver art, whether he created it, or received it!
Detail of Medallion
The Wood and Hughes Silver Company opened in 1833 when William Gale partnered with Jacob Wood and Jasper Hughes. The partnership was a perfect match because Jacob Wood and Jasper Hughes apprenticed under William Gale. From 1833 to 1845, the company was known as Gale, Wood & Hughes. The exact reason for William Gale’s name being dropped from the company’s moniker is uncertain. What is known is that the company changed its name to Wood & Hughes in 1845. The company produced general silver wares until 1899 when the firm Graff, Washbourne, and Dunn purchased Wood and Hughes. Gorham Silver purchased Graff, Washbourne, and Dunn in 1961.
Although our museum items are not for sale, we encourage you to visit our Showroom and Museum to view a vast collection of rare tableware and collectible items. While you are here, you can also browse and purchase in a stunning array of china, crystal, flatware, and collectible patterns, including a number of hollowware pieces like this tazza. Our Showroom and Museum are open from 9am to 7pm ET, 7 days a week (except holidays). The Showroom and Museum are conveniently located between Greensboro and Burlington, NC, at exit 132 off Interstate 85/40. Make plans to come see us. We would love to have you and see you walk away with a few striking new hollowware pieces.