Thanks to a generous contribution from the Department of Canadian Heritage's Movable Cultural Property Program, the National Gallery of Canada
(NGC) has acquired a unique and highly-significant vase for its international art collection. The Ptarmigan Vase, made of copper, silver and gold, was designed by the exceptionally-talented American Tiffany & Co
. designer George Paulding Farnham.
"We were attracted to this extraordinary vase because it tells the story of how Canadian and American cultures are closely connected," said Marc Mayer, Director and CEO of the NGC. According to every expert we have consulted, the vase is one of the most ambitious decorative objects of its kind in existence. Canada is the best home for the Ptarmigan Vase. Purchasing it was an extremely time-sensitive exercise and we are most grateful to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, who responded quickly and decisively to our request for financial assistance."
The Ptarmigan Vase, with the powerful British Columbia imagery adorning it, is a unique historical and cultural artifact of outstanding significance for all Canadians, said the Honourable James Moore, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. Our Government is proud to have contributed to its patriation, as it will undoubtedly be a valuable addition to our national heritage and to the National Gallerys collection.
From 1885 to 1907, George Paulding Farnham (1859-1927) was the chief designer at New York's Tiffany & Company, a leading manufacturer of fine jewellery and objets de luxe. Between 1889 and 1901, Farnham won several gold medals for his flamboyant showpieces at prestigious international expositions in Europe and North America. In 1907, he left Tiffanys to devote himself entirely to the Ptarmigan Mines in the Kootenay region of south eastern British Columbia. In the end, he lost his fortune, but was immortalized in the names of Mount Farnham and Paulding Creek, and in this magnificent vase celebrating his Canadian mining exploits.
The Ptarmigan Vase, circa 1900-05
This monumental (63.5 cm high) vase fuses together layers of copper and silver using the traditional Japanese mokume (woodgrain metal) technique. Crafted in silver, a rock ptarmigana type of grouse native to the Kootenay regionperches atop a rim ringed with elaborate silver and copper designs inspired by First Nations sculpture and basketry. The front of the vase is adorned in gold with the British Columbia Coat of Arms. Below this is a stylized copper cross, trimmed with a silver inscription designating the longitude and latitude of the mountain stream still known as Paulding Creek. The base of the vase features designs reminiscent of Apache basketry, and the underside is inscribed with the names of the five principle New York-based master craftsmen (Hannweber, Swamby, Thoma, Barker and Spengler) who worked with Farnham at Tiffanys.