Probably by John Patterson (active about 1750)
Object Place: Probably Annapolis, Maryland
Overall: 17.2 x 8.8 cm, 0.23 kg (6 3/4 x 3 7/16 in., 0.51 lb.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The silver-mounted coconut or other tropical nut has an applied concave silver rim with band. A scalloped decorative edge below the rim is secured to the nut in two places. A beaded and gadrooned foot with an applied foot rim rises to a seamed stem having a similar band of applied beading. A scalloped edging similar to that found at the lip is attached to the base.
This unusual drinking cup, with its coconut bowl and silver mounts, was probably made by John Patterson of Annapolis, Maryland. He may be the maker who advertised in the Maryland Gazette on January 23, 1751, stating his intention of “departing this Province by the 19th of March.” A standing cup of similar form and materials that carries the “I [pellet] P” mark is in a private collection. A circular spirit lamp bearing the engraved inscription “JP / IP / Annapolis / 1751” is the only other object attributed to Patterson.
There is a European tradition of fashioning mounts for exotic objects found in nature or for prized examples of Chinese porcelain, the latter considered more valuable than gold. Although extremely rare in the colonies, one such known example is a sugar dish made from an ostrich egg, which was created for Andrew Oliver by Paul Revere in 1764.
In preconquest South America, nuts and gourds occasionally served as vessels. The Spanish later adapted these simple cups by adding European-style silver mounts. The English made drinking cups with coconuts as early as 1670; indeed, one known unmarked “coco-nut goblet” with a rim is similar to the Patterson example. In North America, coconuts were easier to procure than ostrich eggs or porcelain, and a few documented New York examples are known from published sources. One cup attributed to John Cluet (w. 1725 – 1787?) of the Hudson River valley is similar to the Patterson cup in its use of a decorated border at the juncture with the stem. Such a device no doubt served as an anchor for the coconut bowl. This cup has a lid with a large ringlike finial reminiscent of patens and suggesting ecclesiastical use. Thomas Hammersley (1727 – 1781) produced an elegantly carved coconut sugar bowl mounted on three silver hoof feet with shell knees and a silver rim and lid. The scalloped edge beneath the Hammersley rim is nearly identical to that found on the Patterson cup. Last, a domed vessel with finely carved Masonic symbols, made by William Thompson (w. 1809 – 1845), also survives.
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.
Marked "I [pellet] P" in roman letters within a rectangle under base, and less distinctly on rim.
Early history unknown. Purchased from Mr. Everett A. Young, Coes and Young, Boston, Massachusetts.
Marion E. Davis Fund