This monumental tray epitomizes Edward Moore's innovative interpretation of Japanese designs and also his mastery of Meiji techniques of working with various colored alloys. Moore's Japanesque silver and mixed-metal objects exhibited by Tiffany's at the Paris Exposition of 1878 created an international sensation, inspiring praise in America, Europe, and Japan, and garnering numerous medals at the fair.
Moore, Tiffany's artistic director, was a pioneer collector of Meiji artwork, and he adopted the Japanese metalworkers' emphasis on motifs from nature, asymmetry, and non-repetitive patterns. He also used a "palette" of colored metals to create pictorial effects with silver objects, rather than using the Western silversmith's traditional sculptural approach to decoration. The greatest of his designs display a total integration of form and ornament, as on this tray, which takes its shape from the gourd decoration. Finally, Moore created a distinctive effect by spot-hammering and acid-etching the silver surface in order to offset the colored alloys and to emphasize the handwork lavished on these objects.
One reviewer of Moore's silver at the 1878 Paris Exposition wrote "The Messrs. Tiffany have made the greatest progress and won their most marked success in the treatment of metallic alloys and in the lamination of different metals . . . [they] have taken up the Japanese method and applied it in a very effective and entirely novel manner to the decoration of hammered silver . . . the Japanese themselves are very charmed by it, and have bought several specimens to take home with them." (New York Daily Tribune, December 10, 1878)
Many of Tiffany's best examples of the Japanese taste in silver and mixed-metal were retailed in Paris following the exposition, and indeed this tray bears a French control mark indicating its sale there. It also is stamped "Patent Applied For," an inscription which appears on a handful of Moore's works made in or just after 1878, probably referring to the spot-hammered surface technique.