Baldwin Gardiner (American, 1791–1869)
Object Place: New York, New York, United States
45 x 33 cm (17 11/16 x 13 in.)
Medium or Technique
Kristin and Roger Servison Gallery (Gallery 133)
The large, raised, helmet-shaped presentation ewer has a cast and chased scrolled handle with foliate decoration; an air vent is below. Under the flaring spout is chased a large anthemion, on each side of which extends scrolled rinceaux decoration that surrounds the vessel. The rim is edged with die-rolled floral ornamentation. Convex die-rolled midband decoration appears above a gadrooned section; the short stem with a foliate baluster descends to a circular foot embellished with a radiating leaf pattern. A later inscription to the left of the spout has been removed, and the firescale restored.
This richly ornamented presentation ewer is a grand statement of the Neoclassical mode in early-nineteenth-century America. The frosty and richly repousséd handle, lip, and body, with its anthemia, scrolled rinceaux decoration, and vigorous gadrooning, are elements derived from the French style. Similar to ambitious examples made in the Philadelphia shop of Fletcher and Gardiner (cat. no. 150), this ewer, marked by Baldwin Gardiner, may have been made by an immigrant craftsman who worked in one of these two shops and had the skills and talent to execute silver in the latest mode.
Baldwin Gardiner was the younger brother of Boston and Philadelphia silversmith Sidney Gardiner. Both men were born in Southold, Long Island, to John Gardiner (1752 – 1823) of that town and Abigail Worth (1760 – 1781) of Nantucket, Massachusetts. Baldwin Gardiner traveled to Boston to apprentice in the shop that his brother operated with Thomas Fletcher; he continued working for them when the firm moved south to Philadelphia in 1811. By 1815 he established a fancy hardware store called Gardiner, Veron & Co. on 98 Chestnut Street. His partner was Lewis Veron (1793 – 1853), a member of the Veron family into which Baldwin Gardiner, his brother Sidney, and Thomas Fletcher married.
Shortly after the death of Sidney Gardiner in 1827, Baldwin Gardiner moved to New York, where he established a furnishings warehouse called B. Gardiner and Co. He sold imported French plateaus, candelabras, and lamps. By 1832 he was operating a steam-driven silver manufactory. However, not all silver marked by Baldwin Gardiner was completed on site. In 1828 he arranged for Fletcher and Gardiner to complete a commission that was to carry his marks, writing, “I should expect to have my name stamped upon the bottoms.” Such information makes it difficult to ascertain the maker of this presentation ewer dated 1833, which is among the most magnificent examples to display the Baldwin Gardiner mark.
The extent to which Gardiner shared craftsmen or patrons with Fletcher and Gardiner is unknown, but the quality of some surviving work, and this ewer in particular, suggests that highly skilled craftsmen may have come to New York through his older brother’s shop or that this commission was carried out by his brother’s company after his death in 1827. The touchmark “G” that appears along with two pseudohallmarks is not fully understood.
Gardiner’s manufactory produced an assortment of flatware including ladles, cheese knives, spoons of varying sizes, and tongs. His mark also appears on a set of knives in the Thread pattern that were also produced by Fletcher and Gardiner. Some larger examples of hollowware also survive, including ewers of similar scale and an elaborate wirework cake or fruit basket. By 1836 Gardiner moved to 39 Nassau, where he sold a variety of domestic ornamental wares, mostly imported from France and England. After a brief period in California in 1848, Gardiner moved to Newark, New Jersey, where he died in 1869.
The presentation of the ewer to Capt. Hartwell Reed, whose “personal Character and Seaman-like abilities” are extolled in the inscription, celebrated the packet ship’s maiden voyage from New Orleans to New York. The Natchez was one of five new vessels built to increase travel between the two cities. The ship arrived in New York on July 5, but the ewer is engraved July 4, perhaps because that was the date it had been expected in port. Such honors paid to ship captains were not uncommon in the early to mid-nineteenth century. Gardiner produced a ewer in 1834 for Capt. George Maxwell, whose ship Europe traveled from Liverpool to New York.
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.
Beneath spout in script: "As a Testimonial / of their estimation of his personal Character / and Seaman-like abilities, / the pasengers of the Ship Natchez / on her Voyage from New Orleans to New York, in June 1833, / present this Pitcher / TO / Captain Hartwell Reed, / New York, July 4th 1833"
On bottom is stamped "B [pellet] GARDINER" within a serrated rectangle / [pseudo hallmark of head in rectangle with chamfered corners] G [pseudo hallmark of a lion within a rectangle with chamfered corners].
Presented on July 4, 1833 to Captain Hartwell Reed by the passengers of the Ship Natchez on the successful completion of their voyage in June of that year from New Orleans to New York; private collector, West Hartford, Connecticut, 1940s; by descent to her daughter; acquired by Hirschl & Adler in 1994; purchased by Museum in 1996.
Museum purchase in honor of Jonathan Fairbanks on the occasion of the silver anniversary of the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture with funds donated by his many friends and supporters