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Napkin Clip, 1 of 2

Decorative Arts

When John W. Mackay, a poor Irish immigrant, struck it rich prospecting for silver in Nevada, he sent Tiffany & Company a half ton of silver to fashion an expansive 1,250-piece dinner service. These napkin clips, made of gold-plated silver with beautiful enamel decoration inspired by Near Eastern textiles, were part of the service. When one pinches the wings of the butterflies upward, the lower body separates and clasps the napkin. The upper body of each insect bears the Tiffany-invented Mackay coat-of-arms and the motto "Et dieu mon appui" (God is my support).
MEDIUM Gilt silver and enamel
DATES 1878-1879
DIMENSIONS 2 1/2 x 3 1/4 x 3/4 in. (6.4 x 8.3 x 1.9 cm)  (show scale)
MARKINGS On inside of one underside of body: STERLING SILVER. On inside of other underside of body: TIFFANY & Co (in arch) /5627 M 6557 (?). On underside of one wing near body: ET in small rectangle (French import mark). On top side of one wing: small indecipherable mark.
SIGNATURE no signature
INSCRIPTIONS no inscriptions
COLLECTIONS Decorative Arts
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CREDIT LINE Gift of the American Art Council
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CAPTION Charles T. Grosjean (died 1888). Napkin Clip, 1 of 2, 1878-1879. Gilt silver and enamel, 2 1/2 x 3 1/4 x 3/4 in. (6.4 x 8.3 x 1.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the American Art Council, 1991.101.2. Creative Commons-BY
IMAGE group, 1991.101.1_1991.101.2_transp342.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
"CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Napkin clip, gilt silver and enamel, in the form of a butterfly. Attached to the thorax are two spring-hinged wings which, when compressed, open the legs and underbelly of the thorax along a wavy line and spring back to clasp napkin. On thorax, front, is stylized head, the lower part of which, at neck, is formed by a crown, which sits atop the Mackey coat of arms (three horizontal dots above two horizontal bars) in a shield. Below and to the sides of the shield is a banner with the motto: ET DIEU MON APPUI. From the banner depend tendril-like elements that form the interlocking monogram MLM (for Marie Louise Mackey). On under side of the thorax there is a cast-incised spiral at the head and three pairs of legs arranged along open seam. On both obverse and reverse of each wing is an intricate, inlaid, polychrome enamel pattern in which the color fields are separated by cloisonné wires. In the upper part of each wing surface is a vaguely pear-shaped section of pale yellow ground. At the base is a stylized half-blossom with white center and dark orange petals. From this grows three dark orange stems, intertwining, and each with green and white intertwining leaves. Each stem terminates in a stylized lotus blossom (two full, one in bud), each petal of which graduates from pale amber to dark orange and has a white dot in dark orange section. Lower section of each wing surface is leaf-shaped and of pale yellow ground. At base is stylized half-blossom with white center, dark orange petals, each with a white dot. From this grow white-and-green leaves; stylized lotus blossom, each petal of which graduates from pale amber to dark orange with white dot in dark orange part; red stem with lotus bud. En suite with 1991.101.1. CONDITION: Gilt slightly worn; otherwise excellent.
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Napkin Clip, 1 of 2