Codman was chief designer of Gorham Manufacturing Company from 1891 until his
retirement in 1914. In 1896, the company introduced his revolutionary new program to produce a line of handmade silver, called Martelé (hand-hammered) in the Arts and Crafts tradition.
Codman said that the new work was to be “modern art,” and the modern art of 1900 was art nouveau. Thus, he parted company with most of the other American makers of Arts and Crafts silverware. Pieces signed by Codman are rare, though we know he personally designed the entire Martelé line. This voluptuous pitcher, with leaf and undulating lily-of-the-valley motifs, is one of the most important manifestations of art nouveau in America.
Designer William C. Codman, American, 1839 - 1921
Manufacturer Gorham Manufacturing Co., American, established 1831
  • Pitcher
Date 1912
Medium silver-martele, hammered and chased
Dimensions Overall: 10 3/4 × 8 × 5 1/8 inches (27.3 × 20.3 × 13 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Mrs. Charles Theron Van Dusen Fund and American Art General Fund
Accession Number 1991.134
Department American Art before 1950
Not On View
Signed Signed: W.C. Codman
Marks Marks, on bottom: Martele | [eagle] | [a lion], [anchor], G | .9584 | BVQ | GROGAN COMPANY
Inscriptions Engraved, bottom: W. C. Codman
1991-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)
"American Decorative Arts Acquisitions 1985-2005." Bulletin of the DIA, 81, 1-2 (2007): p. 75.