Caster

Boston, MA
1720–30
Benjamin Hiller (1687 or 1688–about 1745)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

Overall: 16 x 5 cm, 0.19 kg (6 5/16 x 1 15/16 in., 0.42 lb.)

Accession Number

1982.503

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The slender pear-shaped vessel is raised and has octagonal facets; the body is soldered to a simple concave foot with applied foot ring. An applied collar at rim receives a pair of cast, scrolled, bayonet-style mounts affixed below molding of a similarly faceted, tall, domed lid. A pierced and engraved four-petaled pattern decorates the lid, at the top of which is applied a circular disk and spherical finial.


Hollowware with panelled or faceted sides found special favor in the early eighteenth century among silversmiths who made casters and pepper pots. Complex in shape and execution, octagonal and hexagonal forms were also well suited to the hand, which may account for the preponderance of smaller objects made in this style.
John Coney produced a pair of hexagonal pear-shaped casters about 1710 – 20 for the Charnock family of Boston.
Kathryn C. Buhler believed that Hiller’s version of this form was informed by his apprenticeship or journeyman experience with Coney, as documented in a 1709 deed that Hiller witnessed for Coney. By this date, Hiller would have completed his apprenticeship or recently begun work as a journeyman. Coney also fashioned an octagonal pepper box, or spice dredger, during the same period.
A slightly smaller version of this caster by Hiller, bearing the same arms and initials, is in the Yale collection. The discovery of the Museum’s larger example indicates that the two were probably from an original set of three, few of which survive en suite.

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

Dudley crest engraved on body (lions head erased on a torse) within an ellipse and surrounded by broad scrolled and foliate decoration; within scribed lines, the initials "E : J" in roman letters are found on base, below touchmark.

Markings

Stamped "BH" over addorsed crescents, all within a shield on base of caster.
Ada Mark * F4434

Provenance

The presence of the Dudley arms suggest that it was made for Col. William Dudley (1686-1740) and Elizabeth Davenport (1704-1750) who were married in 1721. By descent to their daughter Catherine (1729-1769), who married the loyalist merchant Peter Johonnot (1729-1809) in 1751. Having no issue, the initials "E : J" signify one of Peter's two unmarried sisters, Elizabeth (b. 1731) or Esther (b circa 1743-48) Johonnot.1 Subsequent history unknown until the twentieth century, when the caster was purchased in Canada by Ivor Cornman of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and sold to the Museum.

1Andrew Johonnot, "The Johonnot Family," NEHGR 7 (April 1853): 141-42; D.D [poss. Dean Dudley] "Gov. Thomas Dudley and his Descendants," NEHGR 10 (October 1856): 338-39.

Credit Line

Marion E. Davis Fund