The "New Art" (art nouveau) style was a rejection of the cumbersome, stylized and overly decorated era of Victorian art. Art Nouveau broke with tradition in the way it depicted very naturalistic animals, maidens, swirls, flowers, plants, insects and other elements all combined in a fantasy-like setting. Artists such as Alphonse Mucha created beautiful images of idealized women surrounded by flowers and flowing forms which still attract our attention.
The majority of the thousands of different souvenir spoons and flatware pieces made in the 1890's to 1910 are in the Art Nouveau style. From the simple tight-waisted flatware pieces to elaborate fantasy settings, the Art Nouveau artists forever changed our perceptions of the natural world and the role of artistry in human endeavor.
The possibilities are endless and silver manufacturers competed vigorously to capture the popular imagination.
Art Nouveau female face surrounded by wavy hair (Daphne)
The beginnings of the movement in silver souvenir flatware around 1890, show very nicely engraved swirls and flowers.
These are much prettier in person--they have depth and intensity, but the scanner seems to "flatten them"
Ordinary silver flatware was often made in the Art Nouveau style, and there are numerous variations. These often show flowers, curves and a tight waist. The many hundreds of different variations made by virtually every silversmithing firm is eloquent testimony to the extreme popularity of these flatware pieces. Several different catalogs are available which detail all of the variations. Many of these patterns are still avidly collected by thousands of people.
Souvenir spoons often had similar design elements, but these were usually expressed differently. Note we still have curvy features with a tight waist.
It is also quite intriguing to observe the way 1900's society viewed the female human body versus the way that we do today. Their view of the desirable female was a much more rounded curvy body than is our current preoccupation with thinness and weight. They also placed more emphasis on a proportioned body with a nice waist with full hips, while our view has changed to large breasts and small hips and a small derriere.
This sensuous nude left (Bacchante) is available in different sizes. Spoons with bowl customization are more desireable. The picture on the right is by the Mechanics division of Watson. This is a more unusual version because they didn't try to hide the art nuevo figure in a morass of other details.
A beautifully painted spoon featuring a gorgeous Art Nouveau lass
Wallace Silversmith version (Irian pattern--note 2 puttis above and cupid to the right). The bowl often contains customization running the gamut of buildings, scenery etc. This was a popular and relatively expensive design motif and is still widely collected today.
Baker Manchester version of an Art Nouveau maiden
Spring nymph reaching into a flower
This is a typical fantasy female Art Nouveau concept (beautiful woman reduced to insect proportions) and is very reminiscent of the sensuous nudes created by Alphonse Mucha of Czechoslovakia, a leading Nouveau illustrator. Note this is the version with cutouts around the waist and head. Another version is solid. (Paye and Baker Silversmiths).
A typical late Victorian art nouveau image of a barebreasted mermaid holding aloft an art nouveau flame. Note the typical "C" scrolls on the handle. This piece is available in various sizes and different customization
A very nicely done original design. A standard flatware piece with a twisty handle and normal bowl was modified by a very experience silversmith to create this lovely art nouveau lady. There is considerable cutout and engraving work, but despite 3 scanning tries the picture still does not capture all of the detail work.
left: "apple Goddess", right: "orange Goddess"
silverplated dragon fly
The Victorians were extremely interested in the
"natural world". They placed
a very great emphasis on plants, flowers, insects, animals and their
(today we call this ecology and environment). Another example of insects on spoons may be seen in the Oriental Spoon Exhibit and in the Indonesian Spoon exhibit.
This is one of the prettiest Art Nouveau servers which I have seen. Measuring about 9.0", this fruit server made by Durgin has a fluted gold washed bowl. The cutouts in the handle are all hand made.
In this exhibit I have tried to present some of the more notable Art Nouveau spoons. There are numerous other examples of Art Nouveau design on other pages in this museum.
Click to view Queen Victoria at the very beginning of the Art Nouveau design period.
Click to view ART DECO images
Click to view ARTS AND CRAFTS images