English silver plated epergne with cut crystal bowls, 19" wide, 19" high, sold at Northgate Gallery on Dec. 3, 2005 for $1200
An epergne is a table centerpiece with a central bowl and arms which extend from the center. The arms also terminate in bowls or holders for fruit or flowers. The epergne's history has ties to the seventeenth century when foods that had been eaten from a common bowl began being served on individual plates.
Although records indicate that the first epergne appeared in England around 1720, there are no known examples from that period. However, the earliest known examples are very large with cast feet and hanging baskets. They were often used to save space on the table and provided a convenient way for guests to serve themselves smaller items such as nuts and fruit. Silver epergnes with glass bowls first began to appear around 1770. From the late 19th-early 20th centuries the form of the Epergne was briefly revived but mainly for decorative purposes. In America during that perioed, Gorham was one of the best makers of the Epergne. Today, Epergnes are regularly offered in the marketplace. Often they are glass, silver, or a combination of both. Below is an Epergne which will be sold in July at Brunk Auctions in Asheville, North Carolina.
four arms, scroll and floral decoration, cut glass bowls, unmarked, no monogram, British, early 19th century, 16-3/4 x 23 x 21-1/2 in. Repairs, post and arms bent., Brunk Auctions, July 11, 2009, starting bid $150, Estimate $300-$600