Porringer

about 1750
William Cowell, Jr. (American, 1713–1761)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

5.5 x 21 cm (2 3/16 x 8 1/4 in.)

Accession Number

32.381

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The raised low vessel with a center point has a defined dome in the base and steps upward to low convex walls and everted rim. A cast keyhole handle is soldered at a slight angle to the rim. At an undetermined date, a spout having a shaped upper section was added at left of handle. A failed repair to a tear at the rim is evident, and numerous small dents appear along the sides.


When Kathryn C. Buhler published her two-volume work on the Museum’s silver collection, she omitted this porringer, although it had been in the collection since 1932. Its added spout may have led to her decision to exclude an altered object. However, this modification suggests how changing tastes or needs have shaped the types of forms used over time.
The addition of a spout to a porringer allowed its owner to extend its use as a type of low saucepan for serving liquids. Porringers were popular in the colonies long after the taste for this form had faded in England, but it is unclear how these vessels were used in the nineteenth century. The large number of surviving porringers suggests that some must have remained in use, whereas others were retained out of respect for the ancestors who first owned them. The survival of this curious spouted porringer allows us to consider how some were adapted for continued use at the table.

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

In a later hand, the script surname "Gelston" is engraved on base.

Markings

Under handle, marked "W:Cowell" in italics within a rectangular punch having a shaped top.
Ada Mark * F4727

Provenance

Early history unknown; bequeathed to the Museum in 1932 by the noted Boston collector Charles Hitchcock Tyler.

Credit Line

Bequest of Charles Hitchcock Tyler