The Martelé records indicate this sample vase, number 1509, was produced in 1899, before Gorham's art nouveau line was unveiled at the Paris exposition in 1900. Three years earlier, the Gorham Mfg. Co., which had successfully capitalized upon highly mechanized production, created a line of hand-made silver. Influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement in England and North America, Martelé silver was to be produced without the aid of machinery and with the input of the designer and craftsman. The resulting silver was created almost exclusively in the Art Nouveau aesthetic. This costly and prestigious line was produced in limited quantities, and employed the most skilled craftsmen. For example, the "Night" Vase required 50 hours to fashion and an additional 222 hours to complete the chased decoration. The factory cost of the vase was $420.
David Wilmot (1853-1940) was one of Gorham's most talented chasers and was employed only upon important works, such as the "Night" vase. Wilmot trained in England and was hired by Gorham in 1875. According to researcher Sam Hough, Wilmot was regarded, for a long period, as Gorham's most talented chaser, evidenced by his salary, which was only surpassed by that of the factory foreman. Wilmot briefly left Gorham, but returned in 1899. Upon his return, Wilmot, along with Robert Bain and George Sauthof, were paid wages double that of other Gorham chasers. Wilmot remained at Gorham until his retirement in 1925.
Chased figural decoration on Martelé silver is rare, and the existence of figural decoration by David Wilmot as early as 1899 is very rare. John W. Keefe and Sam Hough have noted that figural work typically was given to the chaser Robert Bain. Further, other figural work post-dates the Wilmot piece by a number of years. Martelé figural pieces employing the "Night" and "Day" theme include a pair of candelabra and ewer and basin made for the St. Louis World's fair, 1904; and two side dishes dating to 1907. A jardinière featuring nude females and a Venus and Neptune centerpiece date to 1903 and 1906, respectively. (See: L. J. Pristo, Martelé: Gorham's Nouveau Art Silver, 2002, p. 187; John W. Keefe and Samuel J. Hough, Magnificent Marvelous Martelé, 2001, pp. 338-41)
David Wilmot's "Day" and "Night" Vases, 1899, upon completion of production, Brown University Archives, illustrated in Larry Pristo, Martelé: Gorham's Nouveau Art Silver, 2002, p.101.