Sauceboat (one of a pair)

1755–1765
Joseph Richardson Sr. (American, 1711–1784)


Object Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Dimensions

10.4 x 19.4 x 9.2 cm (4 1/8 x 7 5/8 x 3 5/8 in.)

Accession Number

1985.412

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

This raised elliptical vessel has a scalloped rim and a broad, extended spout. A cast double-scrolled handle with leafy acanthus thumbgrip rises above each sauceboat. A rectangular notch cut into the handle secures the solder seam of the handle to the rim; the lower scroll is adhered directly to the body. Three cast cabriole legs have stylized shell patterns at each knee; triple pad feet support each vessel.


Sauceboats, sometimes called “butter boats” or “butter cups” by Paul Revere, were of a low-slung elliptical shape. Their dynamic presence was derived from a lively scalloped rim and tall scrolled handle that punctuated the air with a flourish. Often made in pairs to serve warm sauces quickly, the three-legged sauceboat came into use in England during the second and third decades of the eighteenth century and were soon found in Boston homes. For example, shortly after their marriage in 1728, merchant Joshua Winslow and his wife, Anna (Green) Winslow, of Hanover Street in Boston, acquired two London-made sauceboats that were probably used as a pair. Each features scalloped edges, an everted pouring spout, a broken scroll handle with foliate decoration, and cast feet with shell decoration, elements also favored by American silversmiths.
American sauceboats first appeared in New England by the 1740s, with examples introduced by John Burt and Jacob Hurd. Their efforts were followed in later decades by those of John Coburn, Daniel Parker, Nathaniel Hurd, Daniel Henchman (see cat. no. 67), Benjamin Burt, Samuel Burt, and Paul Revere II, among many others, attesting to the serving vessels’ popularity.
The prolific craftsman Joseph Richardson was the second in the line of a distinguished Philadelphia silversmithing dynasty founded by his father, Francis. Joseph Richardson produced only two sauceboats prior to 1748, but by the 1750s and 1760s, the form gained in popularity and was often requested in pairs. The shape varied little among the pairs that Richardson made, but the level of decoration ranged from a highly chased pair in the Hammerslough collection, made for Joseph Emlen Miller, to these relatively simple examples, unadorned except for the elegant cypher monogram. Richardson also emplyed a fleur-de-lis design on the knee of the sauceboats, a variant of which is in the Metropolitan Museum.

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

Cypher monogram "CW" or "CWC" on body to left of handle.

Markings

"IR" within a rectangle, with an incuse device above, on base.

Provenance

Early history unknown. Purchased in the twentieth century by silver collector Mark Bortman (1896 – 1967) and lent to the Museum in 1948; by descent to his daughter Jane Bortman Larus (b. 1927); sold to the Museum in 1985.

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by a friend of the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture