Contact: Kathy Oathout



Largest Private Collection of Martele Silver in the World on Display October 12

St. Petersburg, FL (August 24, 2006) The Robert and Jolie Shelton Collection from the New Orleans Museum of Art, the largest private collection of Martele silver in the world, will be on display at Florida International Museum (FIM) October 12, 2006 through January 7, 2007. Marvelous, Magnificent Martele: American Art Nouveau Silver is an exclusive line of hand-crafted silver that was produced from 1897 to 1912 by the Gorham Silver Company. ‘Martele' is the French term for hand hammered. “This stunning exhibit provides a rare opportunity to see the finest and largest collection of Martele silver ever assembled,” said Kathy Oathout, FIM executive director. “The collection was saved from the Hurricane Katrina flooding as the objects were moved to higher floors as the waters rose.”

Florida International Museum is proud to announce that The Silver Queen is the presenting sponsor for Marvelous, Magnificent Martele: American Art Nouveau Silver. The Silver Queen is located at 1350 West Bay Drive in Largo , which has been helping thousands of people locate and match pieces from their existing set of silver, assisting them in starting new sets and creating new family traditions since 1972. Please visit .

The Shelton collection is considered the most comprehensive assemblage of this luxurious line of entirely hand-wrought silver in the world and includes several significant examples that have never been seen publicly. The more than 300 elegant and uniquely decorated pieces include tea and coffee services, punchbowls, candelabras, vases and centerpieces and a magnificent dining table laid with all the pomp and ceremony of the period. “ Florida International Museum has brought a world of experiences to the community through historical and popular exhibitions:  Titanic , Russia , John F. Kennedy, Baseball, Princess Diana, – and now offers a wonderful exhibit of beautiful hand-crafted silver,” Oathout continued.

Named after the French verb marteler, “to hammer,” the Martele line of silver is one of the most noteworthy American contributions to the international Art Nouveau movement. Art Nouveau's credo – Art in nature; nature in art – was meant to encourage and inspire artists to bring natural sources such as foliage, flowers and animals into their designs. The avant-garde concept spurred artists to create new and innovative designs, all the while challenging them to explore the bounty of nature. Such interpretation was not meant to copy natural appearances but to simplify, abstract and interpret them. The practical application of such thinking produced objects that held in common swaying, undulating rhythms, energy-charged contours and graceful plays of line. Martele objects were given organic silhouettes and often displayed inverted lips with rippling edges and elegantly chased flowers and foliage.

Numbering more than 400 pieces, this Shelton collection of Martele silver has taken form in the short span of just ten years. Residents of Lafayette , Louisiana , Jolie and Robert Shelton purchased their first piece of Martele silver, an 1898 iced water pitcher, at a New Orleans auction in March, 1995. That initial acquisition ignited a spark of enthusiasm that grew into a passion.

The remarkable Shelton collection now includes nearly every important form produced in the Martele line: tea-and-coffee services, flagons, vases, tureens, punch bowls, ladles, fish platters, candelabra, inkstands, porringers, presentation cups and extremely rare Martele flatware.

Founded by Jabez Gorham (1792-1869) in 1831, the Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence , Rhode Island , grew from a small provincial jewelry manufacturer to the largest producer of sterling silver and silver-plated wares in the world by 1890. During this period of dramatic growth, Gorham distinguished itself by successfully combining the latest technological developments with fine design. For instance, the company was the first to install a steam-powered drop-press in the 1850's, which permitted it to craft matching flat and hollowware of uniform quality at a vastly accelerated rate. The decision to revert to a line of silver crafted entirely by hand therefore appeared slightly ironic. However, in the late 1800's the ambitious and energetic Edward Holbrook took control of the company, and he was determined to make Gorham the preeminent American manufacturer of silverware. To this end, in 1890 he completed construction of a vast state-of-the-art factory, the world's largest and most efficient facility for the production of silver and bronze wares. Holbrook also brilliantly foresaw that a well-advertised line of hand wrought luxury silver would carry the Gorham name to new heights.

Although Gorham began to produce designs for Martele pieces in 1896 and commenced limited production in 1897, they waited until the prestigious 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle to announce their lavish new line. New international styles were often introduced at world fairs due to enormous press coverage and visitor attendance, in this case, more than 51 million people.

Both critics and the general public enthusiastically received the Martele line at this world exposition. Gorham's chief executive office, Edward Holbrook, was a Chevalier of the Legion d' Honneur (the highest civilian honor given by the French government); and the chief designer of the Martele line, William Christmas Codman, was awarded a gold medal. The triumphant achievements of the Martele line at the Paris Exposition provoked the Gorham Manufacturing Company to exhibit at the famed Turin International Exposition of 1902 and the 1904 St. Louis Louisiana Purchase Exposition, which is commonly credited with introducing the Art Nouveau style to the American public.


FIM hours are Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 5 pm ; Sunday 12 noon – 5 pm; last admission at 4p.m. Adults $10, Seniors/Military $8, Students $5, Toddlers 6 and under – free. For more information please contact Eileen Conte, at 727.341.7901. To learn more about the Florida International Museum visit .


The Florida International Museum is a non-profit educational institution supported, in part, by the Florida Arts Council, State of Florida , Division of Cultural Affairs and Institute of Museum & Library Services. Other major sponsors include Starbucks, Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, Borders, Clear Channel Outdoors and Carlton Fields and Raymond James & Associates.