Baptismal basin

1718
John Coney (American, 1655 or 1656–1722)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

Overall (h x dia.; weight): 8.6 x 43 cm, 1.6 kg (3 3/8 x 16 15/16 in., 3.4 lb.)

Accession Number

1984.208

Medium or Technique

Silver

On View

Burton A. Cleaves Gallery (Gallery LG27)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The large basin with a broad everted rim has a drawn, applied, molded edge. The sides of the basin descend vertically before curving inward toward a small central dome and center point. Faint remains of incomplete compass-patterned engraving are visible on the central dome; two S-scrolls for an intended repeating border appear on the rim to the right of the inscription. Two solder repairs appear under the rim.


As Donald Fennimore has pointed out, the Congregational church strove to reduce the number of liturgical forms as a means of distancing themselves from the ritualistic accoutrements employed by the Roman and Anglican churches. The large, wide bowl, or basin, was a secular vessel appropriated for christening. The plain form, graced only with a lively inscription, was at the opposite extreme from the lavish baptismal fonts often built into the fabric of the Roman churches. Effaced evidence of an unfinished S-scrolled decorative pattern at the rim and a compass design in the central dome of the vessel suggests that Coney had originally been commissioned to embellish the basin but stopped for unknown reasons early in his efforts.

This text has been adapted from “Silver of the Americas, 1600-2000,” edited by Jeannine Falino and Gerald W.R. Ward, published in 2008 by the MFA. Complete references can be found in that publication.

Inscription

Latin inscription "Doms. Johannes Legg Arm gr, Ecclesiam J. Christi apud Marbleh-d / eujus Revd D. Edwd Holyoke est Paftor, hoc pietatis testimonio religiose donavit. / Anno 1718" engraved on rim.

Markings

Stamped "IC" above a coney, within a shield, between inscription and rim of basin.
Ada Mark * F3845

Provenance

1718, made for The Second Congregational Church in Marblehead, Massachusetts (later called the Unitarian Universalist Church in Marblehead) with silver given by John Legg; 1984, purchased by the MFA from the church. (Accession date: June 13, 1984)

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by a friend of the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture and the Mary S. and Edward Jackson Holmes Fund