Object Timeline

1940

  • Work on this object began.

1950

  • Work on this object ended.

2016

2020

  • You found it!

Plate, ca. 1945

This is a Plate. It was designed by Francisco Rebajes. It is dated ca. 1945 and we acquired it in 2016. Its medium is jigsaw-cut, hand-hammered, punched, and incised copper. It is a part of the Product Design and Decorative Arts department.

From the 1930s to the 1950s Frank Rebajes was a leading name in the production of copper jewelry and decorative objects. His career is marked by artistic distinction and an appreciation of the hand-crafted as well as prudent expansion into the mass market and commercial success. Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Rebajes’ father was a shoemaker who ran his own factory and exposed him to the life of an artisan-businessman. When Rebajes came to the United States seeking his fortune in 1923 he overcame homelessness, poverty, and a series of odd jobs before finding his creative calling in fashioning jewelry and decorative objects from metal scraps and tin cans. The lizard is an important example of Rebajes’ earliest handmade work from the 1930s and the form is cut from a single sheet of copper except for the legs. The elephant ashtray, also made in the 1930s, shows a similar sense of whimsy and experimentation. His business grew quickly and following the occupation of a few spaces in the West Village, Rebajes opened a showroom at 377 Fifth Avenue and a factory and workshop on 17th street with forty craftsmen by 1942.
Even his pieces achieved national distribution, Rebajes continued to sketch all pieces by hand and he worked directly with his foreman to determine the method of production. The plates with the fish and figural motifs represent some of the more unusual and inventive pieces from Rebajes’ giftware line in the mid-1940s. This group of decorative and yet functional objects for the home shows Rebajes’ playful approach to form and decoration and mastery of the copper material and the historical range of the work tracks Rebajes’ progression from singly made pieces in the early 1930s to more numerously produced pieces in the 1940s. Therefore these objects together tell the story of Rebajes as a resourceful and inventive craftsman who valued artisanship while also bringing his designs within the financial reach of a greater public.

This object was donated by Linda Lichtenberg Kaplan. It is credited Gift of Linda Lichtenberg Kaplan.

Its dimensions are

H x diam.: 2 × 30 cm (13/16 × 11 13/16 in.)

It has the following markings

"Rebajes" (stylized) at rim on left hand side

Cite this object as

Plate, ca. 1945; Designed by Francisco Rebajes (American, b. Dominican Republic, 1907 - 1990); jigsaw-cut, hand-hammered, punched, and incised copper; H x diam.: 2 × 30 cm (13/16 × 11 13/16 in.); Gift of Linda Lichtenberg Kaplan; 2016-43-3

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url=https://www-6.collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/673135671/ |title=Plate, ca. 1945 |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=1 December 2020 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>