Caster

1710–20
John Coney (American, 1655 or 1656–1722)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Catalogue Raisonné

Buhler, 1972, No. 62

Dimensions

Overall: 4.9 x 15.9 cm (1 15/16 x 6 1/4 in.)

Accession Number

63.956

Medium or Technique

Silver

On View

Burton A. Cleaves Gallery (Gallery LG27)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

Baluster form, convex section above base moulding, flange below bexel. Domed cover with moulding near rim, indented midway, cast angular finial holding pierced panels at top. Tiny hole in body at foot. Two punches indicate point of clousure.


John Coney was New England’s most important silversmith from the 1680s until his death in 1722. The Reverend Thomas Foxcroft observed in Coney’s obituary that he was “excellently talented for the Employment assign’d Him, and took a particular Delight therein.” This small masterpiece in the late Baroque, or Queen Anne, style was made in the last decade of his long and productive career and evokes the “particular Delight” Coney enjoyed as a silversmith of the highest order.

Used for “casting” (or shaking) dry mustard, pepper, or sugar onto food, this caster is engraved with the Charnock arms for John Charnock and his wife Hannah (Holyoke) Charnock of Boston. The hexagonal baluster form, easily grasped by the user, is a superb expression of the elegant simplicity of the period, as are the graceful, delicate piercings of the detachable cover. Like the Warland family chest-on-chest (1986.240), Coney’s caster is a demonstration of the uppermost level of taste among Boston’s wealthy citizens of the early eighteenth century.

The Museum’s caster was originally one of two owned by the Charnock family. They descended to later generations and were recorded as “2 silver pepper boxes” valued at $6 in the estate inventory of Polly Dane, a descendant, in 1840. By 1963, when the Museum acquired this caster, the location of its mate was not known. Twenty years later, however, the second example reappeared and was sold at auction in New York.

This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.

Inscription

Engraved with Charnock arms: argent 3 crosses crosslet on a bed or, on front panel, in scroll cartouche

Markings

IC crowned coney below in shield on bottom

Provenance

John Charnock, Boston (d. 1723); by descent to Mr and Mrs Francis S Dane (1); 1946, lent by Mr and Mrs Dane to the MFA; 1963, purchased from the Danes by the MFA. (Accession date: June 19, 1963)

1: to his second wife and widow Hannah (Holyoke) [who m. 1727 Theophilus Burrill, Lynnn, Massachusetts]; to Charnock's son John (b. 1701by first marriage to Mary (King)), he m. Emma, sister of the goldsmith John Blowers; their son John (b. 1726); his adopted daughter, Polly (Brown) Charnock (d. 1840), m. Nathan Dane (1752-1835), uncle of Francis S. Dane.

Credit Line

Marion E. Davis Fund