Beaker

tunn

1659
John Hull (American (born in England), 1624–1683), and Robert Sanderson, Sr. (American (born in England), 1608–1693)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

Overall: 9.9 x 9.3 cm, 0.19 kg (3 7/8 x 3 11/16 in., 0.42 lb.)

Accession Number

1999.90

Medium or Technique

Silver

On View

Manning House (Gallery LG36)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The raised, short, cylindrical form with a flat bottom flares slightly at lip; the center point is evident on the base. A broad lightly hatched field encircling the beaker is contained between two scribed lines placed 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) from lip and base. A shield-shaped device descends from upper scored line.


In the seventeenth century, beakers of this type were occasionally referred to as “tunns,” a term possibly of Celtic origin. Defined as a large cask for holding wine or beer, the word also described a large barrel or unit of liquid capacity. It was used as early as 1555 to refer to a vessel that was no doubt derived from such utilitarian objects. The tunn was an appropriately humble and secular choice for the Congregational communion table, far removed from the rich trappings of the Church of Rome.
As with the taller Dutch-style beakers made by Hull and Sanderson that Albert Roe termed “curious hybrids” inspired by Sanderson’s native Norwich, so, too, these small beakers (or tunns) have a distinctive appearance that sets them apart from their English counterparts. In its short and stocky appearance, the tunn is similar to, but slightly larger than, most related English beakers. Relatively straight sides and the lack of a foot also set this example apart from contemporaneous English examples, as does its chaste, finely punched surface, which serves as primary decoration while providing a secure grip. The source for the matte decoration may be the English wine cup among the First Church plate given by Jeremy Houchin, who arrived in the colony in 1635 and died in 1670.
The tunn most closely related to the Museum’s example in both date and form is also the earliest piece of colonial silver made for the church; it bears the single touchmark of John Hull. Hull and Sanderson also made two cups for the First Church of Dorchester and a fifth for Old South Church. These bear punched pattern in a broad field but lack the scored lines that mark the upper and lower border and the shield reserve, as seen on those of the First Church. Another beaker, now unlocated and known only through a period photograph, appears to be closely related to the First Church examples.

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

The faintly pricked inscirption "T / B * C / 1659" appears within a shield shape on side of beaker.

Markings

Marked on base with touch "IH" within a square, surmounted by a shaped reserve with four clustered shapes. The second mark is to the right of the Hull touchmark, "RS" within a circle, surmounted by a radiant sun within a shaped device.

Provenance

Made for the First Church, Boston; 1906, lent by the First Church to the MFA; 1906, returned; 1910, re-lent; 1970, the First Church merged with the Second Church to become the First and Second Church, Boston; 1999, purchased from the church by the MFA. (Accession date: June 23, 1999)

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated anonymously in honor of Jonathan L. Fairbanks