The firm of Edward F. Caldwell & Co. was a preeminent designer and fondeur of America’s Gilded Age. Known for their European-inspired decorations which often rivalled the best French foundries, the firm received commissions from the most celebrated architects and great industrialist of the era, whose lavish homes became synonymous with The Gilded Age. Caldwell was initially the chief designer at Archer & Pancoast Manufacturing Co. – producers of fine gaslight and, eventually, electric fixtures – and received major commissions from the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White, including designs for the New York State Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Caldwell also collaborated with the celebrated architect, Stanford White, which was the catalyst for his departure from Archer & Pancoast and, in 1895, the establishment of his own firm with his former colleague, Victor Von Lossberg (d. 1942), at 31 East 17th Street in New York. In 1901, Caldwell and Von Lossberg established a fully staffed foundry at 36-40 West 15th Street at which the present centerpiece was almost certainly forged.
Isaac Guggenheim, whose family fortune was amassed through smelting and mining industries extending from Chile to Canada, was one of Caldwell’s earliest patrons. Orders for Guggenheim often coincide with the years of construction of Villa Carola, an Italianate mansion situated on 210 acres of Long Island’s North Shore, or the ‘Gold Coast’ as it came to be known for an affluent enclave of country houses built by the Vanderbilts, Goulds and Morgans. An order for the present model, decorated with reclining tritons recalling Italian Renaissance works such as the iconic Cellini salt cellar (c. 1542), was recorded in the Company client ledger on 4 January 1905 (A5). While the construction of the outbuildings of Villa Carola did not begin until 1907 under the direction of Warren & Wetmore, work continued for over a decade at the main residence where the present model is shown in situ in the Summer Dining Room circa 1920 (illustrated).