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Fish slice

Fish slice

  • Place of origin:

    New York (State) (made)

  • Date:

    1994 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Butler, Robert, born 1955 (designer and maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Sterling silver, cast, pierced and chased, partly oxidized

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the American Friends of the V&A through the generosity of Professor B. Seymour Rabinovitch

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The wonderful complexity of this server is exemplary of Butler's sculptural skills. The piece is a complex assembly of marine motifs, a chain of animal eating animal. The blade is a realistic flounder, intricately pierced to create the scales in negative and raised at the side for practical purposes. The solidity of the cast animals that comprise the handle beautifully offset the piercing of the blade and recall Rococo silversmiths in their styling. The server is both beautifully decorative and functional, the piercing of the blade serving to counter the weight of the cast handle.

Physical description

The sever is a modelled, cast and chased assemblage of marine motifs. The blade is a realistic depiction of a flounder that is pierced over the whole body - apart from ruffled fins and head - to form the scales in negative. The handle is a complex piece of casting: a squid holds the tail of the flounder in its tentacles, and in itself is being attacked by a voracious eel whose body is nibbled by a realistic fish with highly oxidized brown eyes. The central part of the flounder's body is ten to twelve gauge (2.5 mm) and comes down to twenty gauge (0.8 mm) on fins and head which act as serving edges.

Place of Origin

New York (State) (made)


1994 (made)


Butler, Robert, born 1955 (designer and maker)

Materials and Techniques

Sterling silver, cast, pierced and chased, partly oxidized

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed:"R A BUTLER", "STERLING" and a small flower


Length: 38 cm, Weight: 526 g

Object history note

Historical significance: In this piece the artist was "able to combine four distinct silversmithing disciplines: modelling, forging, chasing and piercing." Butler's aim was to reconcile functionality with grace.

Historical context note

Part of a collection of fish slices commissioned by Professor Rabinovitch from contemporary North American and British makers.

Descriptive line

Silver, USA, Pine Plains, New York, 1994, designed and made by Robert Butler

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Benton Seymour Rabinovitch and Helen Clifford, Contemporary Silver, commissioning, designing, collecting, London, Merrell, 2000, pp. 106-7. ill. ISBN. 1858941040

Labels and date

This collection of silver slices, all commissioned over a period of twenty years by Professor Benton Seymour Rabinovitch FRS, is proof of the skill and diversity of contemporary silversmiths. Each artist craftsman has responded to the familiar functional form of the slice in an individual way, producing an astonishingly diverse range of interpretations. Each piece becomes an enchanting, decorative work of art. Professor Rabinovitch established a close rapport with each artist, always encouraging a freedom of creative expression. The response of these silversmiths has been not only to be strikingly imaginative but also to honour him by giving him their best work.

This collection is testimony to the significant contribution that one individual can make to supporting the craft of silversmithing. After commissioning work from some of the most illustrious names in British and North American silversmithing, Professor Rabinovitch has very generously donated his entire collection to the Victoria and Albert Museum, through the American Friends of the V&A. [2005]




Casting; Chasing; Oxidation; Piercing

Subjects depicted



Metalwork; Eating


Metalwork Collection

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