1876 Elkington & Co. Electroplate Plaque
Well, actually, I inherited this piece. It was bought by a friend in the early '60s in Beverly Hills, and I was told it came out of the estate of Marion Davies.
Oh, that makes a lot of sense. A silent movie star, of course.
Someone to whom looks would be important, because what you have here is an allegory of vanity. And you see this graceful lady here, sort of a classical lady, holding a mirror, and that mirror has been an ancient symbol of vanity since Grecian times, and you see she's in rather Grecian dress. So if it did come from her estate, it makes all the sense in the world. Also, she was a lady who was surrounded by wonderful, expensive things. This piece was made-- and you can tell by the signature-- by Elkington & Company, an English firm who was famous for perfecting the electroplating technique. And the fascinating thing about this example of electroplate is that it is not just a poor man's silver. It is a work of art in its technique, and Elkington was famous for inventing a kind of technique which perfected the art of these relief plaques in the electrodeposit technique, which is depositing metal into a mold. They had the best artists working for them. The signature on the left side is that of the sculptor. His name was Léonard Morel-Ladeuil. And here he says, invenit and fecit-- the Latin words for "invented it" and fecit, meaning "made it." In other words, he made the first sculpture that was the prototype for these electrotype models, which were made in some quantity. This is dated 1876, and I have every confidence that this was made specifically for an important international exposition, the Philadelphia Centennial of 1876. I'll show you on the back a little bit more... because I love these electrotypes, and I think there's as much on the back as the front. If you see this texture here, which is very lumpy, almost-- those are the nodes that the electrodeposit technique made, and instantly you can tell a 19th-century electrotype by that. Also, up here, very importantly-- they were able to license this technique to other countries, so you have an Austrian, a German, an English, a French and American license information on the back of this. It was a very, very important design. The importance... of this piece in my mind is the marriage of art and industry, and I think here you have the finest example from its period. I don't think the marketplace today is quite as sensitive to this art form as it should be, and electroplates still carry somewhat of a stigma, even though this was made as a work of art. As far as market value, I would say at auction about $3,000 to $5,000.
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