Keno Auctions Offers Silver From the Christensen Estate

Keno Auctions announces the sale of silver from the Estate of Elisabeth Christensen, wife of the Master Silversmith Hans Christensen, will be included in its upcoming sale of Important Paintings, Furniture, Decorative Arts and Jewelry, which takes place on Saturday, September 24, 2011, at the Marriott Hotel (243 Tresser Boulevard) in Stamford, Connecticut, at 10:00 a.m.

Hans Christensen, Teapot and warmer in sterling silver with a rosewood handle and base, made in 1945. Estimate: $15,000–$25,000.

“Keno Auctions is honored to offer this collection of exciting and rare silver from the Estate of Elisabeth Christensen,” said Leigh Keno. “Museums and collectors have known of Hans Christensen’s personal collection for decades in the hope that they might procure one or two representative pieces.”

According to Keno, many of the pieces in the sale were lent by Mr. and Mrs. Christensen most accomplished silversmiths and an innovative designer who uniquely shaped the craft movement in America.

Born in Copenhagen, Christensen became a silversmith to capitalize upon an industry that was integral to the Danish economy. His career began at the prestigious Danish silversmith company Georg Jensen. In 1944, at age 20 and after 5 years as an apprentice, Christensen burst onto the national stage with the tea pot and warmer he created for his journeyman’s piece, a master work submitted for evaluation required by Danish law for apprentices to work as silversmiths. Christensen not only passed the examination but also received two Silver Medallions (for design and for execution), which were presented to him by King Frederick IX of Denmark.

On the heels of this success, Christensen enrolled in the industry’s leading institutions — he matriculated at the Copenhagen School of Arts and Crafts in 1949, the Technical Society for Advanced Silversmiths in 1951, and the School for Arts and Crafts (S.A.C.) in Oslo, Norway, in 1952 — then returned to Jensen.

From 1952 to 1954, Christensen served as the lead silversmith and head of the prototype department. As part of this position, he directed the silversmithing section at the S.A.C. in Copenhagen. During this second stint at Jensen, he collaborated with a number of notable Jensen designers, including Jorgen Jensen (son of Georg), Sigvard Bernadotte (a member of the Swedish royal family), Arno Malinowski, Ole Bent Petersen, Magnus Stephenson (an award-winning architect), and Henning Koppel.

Christensen’s life changed in 1952 when he was sent to represent the company at an exhibition of George Jensen silver at the Museum of Modern Art in New York —Christensen’s designs represented 80% of the show — and became introduced to the American Craft movement. In 1954, he moved to the U.S. at the urging of Amy Vanderbilt Webb to teach at the School of Arts and Crafts in New York.

Compelled by contract obligations that prohibited him from designing silver products outside of Jensen, Christensen turned to designing automobiles and various consumer goods — and a new era of iconoclastic design began.

Christensen’s life was tragically cut short by a 1983 automobile accident. He was posthumously honored with the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching by the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he taught silversmithing and design for 29 years. The widely exhibited Christensen was named to lifelong status as a Fellow of the American Crafts Council in 1979; was a member of the Guldsmedehøjskolen, Copenhagen; the Institute for Arts and Letters, Switzerland; the Society of North American Goldsmiths; and a member of the Nathaniel Rochester Society. His work is in the permanent collections of presidents, individuals, institutions, and the royal families of England, Denmark, Iran, and Sweden.

The master craftsman Hans Christensen was a major force in handcrafted silver design in America in the second half of the 20th century. “This sale represents the complete collection of silver, including several stunning pieces of jewelry, and represents a unique opportunity to acquire an example of his work,” said Keno.

“Each item or lot is unique, and many are the prototypes for presentation pieces. The objects in this auction span his full career, and range from his ?rst major piece — the teapot and warmer created when he was 20 years old as his journeyman’s piece at Georg Jensen in 1944 — to the silver and brass stabiles that he became well known for in the 1970s and early 1980s.”

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