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Gorham Martelé Sterling Silver Covered Terrapin Soup Tureen on Stand, estimated at $10,000-$20,000 at Doyle.

Gorham Martelé turtle soup tureen and plates come to Doyle April 10

NEW YORK – A turtle soup tureen and 12 matching soup plates from Gorham’s exclusive Martelé range will be presented at Doyle New York. Offered as part of the Manhattan firm’s Wednesday, April 10 auction of American Art, Silver, Furniture & Décor, the two lots are estimated at $10,000-$20,000 and $7,000-$10,000, respectively.

Turtle soup, which first became a delicacy on European tables with the emergence of the West Indies trade in the 18th century, was hugely popular among the elite of American society at the turn of the 20th century. It was the favorite dish of the 27th U.S. president, William Howard Taft, who went so far as to hire a chef at the White House for the specific purpose of preparing turtle soup.

Gorham’s archives list four similar ‘terrapin sets’ in the handmade Martelé line. Another terrapin tureen of a differing model, with 12 bowls, was sold by Sotheby’s New York in April 2023 for $30,000.

Like the others, Doyle’s example would have been hugely expensive. As a point of reference, the archives report that a similar Martelé tureen took 136 hours to make and 158 hours to chase, all in the context of a 60-hour week. The net factory price was $520. The dishes, priced at $50 each, took more than eight hours each to ‘raise’, and thereafter required around 20 hours of chasing.

The tureen, with its turtle finial and stand with stylized shell and seaweed feet, dates to 1912 and weighs 124 troy ounces. Across the bombe-form body and domed cover it is chased with scrolling seaweed and ripples to replicate water.

Each of the dozen matching soup plates are chased and engraved to the scalloped borders with turtles, shells, and seaweed. They weigh a total of 147 troy ounces.

The trade name Martelé derives from the French verb ‘marteler’ (to hammer), denoting the distinctive hand-hammered surface of the silverware. The range was produced in Gorham’s Providence, Rhode Island workshops by its best silversmiths under the direction of Englishman William Christmas Codman (1839-1921).

Leading the 18th-century silver is a previously unrecorded inverted pear form teapot by Swiss-born silversmith Daniel Christian Fueter (1720-1785), who worked in the latest fashions in New York. Dated 1762 to the base, it is engraved with the crest and initials of descendants of Albert Albertszen Terhune (circa 1623-1685), a Huguenot ribbon weaver from Holland who settled in Gravesend in Kings County (now part of Brooklyn). The teapot, one of only a few examples of holloware by Fueter in private hands, is estimated at $6,000-$8,000.