Salver

about 1740–1750
Samuel Edwards (American, 1705–1762)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

Overall: 2.5 x 20 cm, 0.27 kg (1 x 7 7/8 in., 0.6 lb.)

Accession Number

1992.269

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The small, raised, circular tray displays a cast border of molded cyma curves interspersed with seven abstracted shell motifs. It is supported by three cast, broad, quadriped feet. Subtle wear marks appear directly over each of the feet, evidence of regular use.


The term salver, from the Spanish word salva (referring to the tasting of foods prior to serving) and the French and Latin words salvar and salvare (meaning “to save” or “to render safe by tasting”), had evolved by the eighteenth century in England to describe a serving plate, particularly a footed tray, used to offer food or drink. Such trays were a staple at the table, where they were used to protect expensive, often imported, linens from dirty spoons, hot teapots, saucepans, and the like.
Early colonial salvers were round, with a plain applied rim or a gadrooned edge and a single trumpet foot. From the 1730s through the 1760s, some square salvers with four feet were made, but over time a tripod form prevailed; it featured cabriole legs and increasingly elaborate octagonal or circular forms with cast shell-and-scroll borders.
The flat expanse of the salver offered a challenge to the silversmith, who, before the age of rolled metal, was obliged to hammer the silver from an ingot into a uniformly even, reflecting surface. Larger examples such as this are rarer because of the increasing difficulty in raising a larger sheet. Few salvers have survived in pairs (cat. no. 88), but all were intended to be used in concert with other salvers of various sizes to support food and drink.
Of the three published salvers by Edwards, one was produced in the earlier trumpet-foot style, whereas a second, slightly smaller example bears six cast-shell forms rather than the seven seen here.
The salver was one of many silver items that Boston merchant William White and his wife, Rebecca, owned and gave as gifts. They had a creampot by John Coburn3 as well as two curious sauce dishes that were more likely reworked from tankard bases marked by Rufus Greene.4 Kathryn C. Buhler has noted that the Whites owned a chafing dish by Paul Revere I, for the initials “W/WR” appear over a partially erased engraving “G/ TI M,” initials of their contemporaries Thomas James Grouchy and Mary Dumaresque, who were married in 1741.5 The Whites also gave silver to their first cousins. To Sarah Phillips (1735 – 1764), William gave a tankard by Daniel Henchman, probably for her wedding to Nathaniel Taylor (b. 1734) in 1759. The couple gave a salver by Paul Revere II to Sarah’s brother William Phillips, probably at the time of his wedding in 1760 to Margaret Wendell (1739 – 1823). At White’s death in 1774, he bequeathed six silver candlesticks and a few pairs of porringers, items he undoubtedly had enjoyed in his Charter Street “mansion house.”6 It may be that White’s liking for silver was due to the influence of his maternal grandfather, Samuel Phillips (1657/58 – 1722), a Salem silversmith.

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

Under salver "W / W * R" is engraved in shaded roman letters.

Markings

On top of the salver and near the border is stamped "S [pellet] E" over a device and within a shaped shield.

Provenance

According to the donor, the initials are those of William White (1717 – 1773) and Rebecca Stoddard (about 1723 – 1773) of Boston, Massachusetts, m. 1743. By descent to the anonymous donor.

Credit Line

Anonymous gift