PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION
"Here's your good health
And your Family's,
And may They all live long and prosper."
-- To --
THE DEAN OF THE DRAMATIC PROFESSION
With the loving Greeting and Affection
of his Brother and Sister Players
Nov. 8 1895
"He Touched Nothing he did not Adorn."
(The first is a quote from Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle, the second Dr. Johnson's epitaph for playwright Oliver Goldsmith)
The figures represent Jefferson as "Old Rip Van Winkle" from the play of the same name, "Bob Acres" in Sheriden's The Rivals, and "Dr. Pangloss" in George Coleman the Younger's The Heir at Law, flanking chased scenes from the first two plays.
Joseph Jefferson (1829-1905) was born to parents in the theater. In the late 1850s he began to make his reputation acting with Laura Keene's company in New York; from this period came both the "Dr. Pangloss" and the "Bob Acres" depicted on this cup. In 1859 he created a dramatic interpretation of Irving's Rip Van Winkle that was a success in Washington, D.C. He spent the early 1860s in Australia and Tasmania, before opening Rip Van Winkle in London in 1865. He would perform the work for the next four decades, with occasional revivals of other works, primarily those on this cup.
He was enormously popular with the public, with his colleagues, and with politicians and artists of his period. John Singer Sargent painted him as "Dr. Pangloss" in a portrait now in the Players' Club, New York, of which Jefferson was a founding member and the 2nd President. William Winter, the dramatic critic of the New York Tribune, in 1894 wrote in the "Life and Art of Joseph Jefferson," that the actor "is an originator in the art of acting.... Joseph Jefferson is as distinct as Lamb among essayists, or George Darley among lyrical poets. No actor of the past prefigured him, ... and no name, in the teeming annals of modern art, has shone with a more tranquil lustre, or can be more confidently committed to the esteem of posterity."
William Clark Noble (1858-1938) studied in Boston and London before opening his first studio in Newport. He was best known for his monumental compositions, winning 29 of 32 sculpture competitions he entered. His best known works include the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Newport and the Phillips Brooks Monument in the Church of the Incarnation, New York City. One of Noble's earliest works with Gorham was the gold and jeweled crucifix he designed for St. Mary the Virgin, in New York City. Gorham also cast his statues of General Josiah Porter (Van Cortlandt Park, the Bronx, 1902), and the Soldier's Monument (Danville, Il, 1917), as well as many smaller bronzes.
Noble modeled the Jefferson Cup in plaster, and the similarity of the figures with studio photographs of Jefferson in his well-known roles suggest that Noble was working from these images. The plaster was then delivered to the Gorham manufactory for casting, chasing, and patination. Casting took 456 hours, 96 hours for the cup, and 360 hours for the figures, for a cost of $228. These elements were then chased, 64 hours for the body and 145 hours for the figures, at a cost of $84. Most of the work was done by hand, though, in Gorham's Experimental Silversmiths' room; 314 hours, costing $109. The net factory price was set at $2100, the cost of a three-floor house in Providence at this time. Despite the date of November 8, 1895 on the piece, Gorham records indicate that it was completed 29 February 1896 (information courtesy of Sam Hough).
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