French, 1897 - 1945
Émile Puiforcat Silversmiths, manufacturer (France)
Cocktail shaker/server, c. 1925–1930
H. 11 x W. 4 3/4 x D. 3 3/4 in.
The best of the Art Deco silversmiths favored originality over longstanding tradition, but it was Jean Puiforcat who must be considered the greatest innovator. Puiforcat produced some of the most stunning silverwork of the 20th century. He studied sculpture while learning silversmithing in his father's atelier (his family had been in the trade since 1820) and, after a lengthy double apprenticeship, began to produce works of remarkable distinction.
Gifted and disciplined, Puiforcat truly rejuvenated silver design. His sleek, elegant designs such as this circa 1925 cocktail shaker/server, proved that the traditional embellishments, figures and flowers, chasing and repoussé, could be eliminated without sacrificing luxury or function. He was a stickler for technical perfection. As with his teapots, Puiforcat began anew with each design, rethinking how to contain the greatest quantity of liquid in the smallest volume, how to facilitate pouring, and how to unify the design so that it combined practicality with elegance. This piece continues to serve as a supreme statement of pure 20th-century design.1
1Those who believe that sports and art do not mix may be surprised to learn that Puiforcat was on the 1920 French Olympic hockey team, only five years before creating this work.