Sugar bowl (part of a tea service)
John F. Davis, Jr. (American, born in 1924)
Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
9.5 x 17.5 cm (3 3/4 x 6 7/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The vessel is raised and has gently curving U-shaped sides and a drawn, seamed, stepped base and applied foot rim. An angular shoulder is soldered on and slopes gently upward toward center. The creamer has an open V-shaped spout that is soldered to the walls. The seamed C-scroll handle is square in section, tapering at each end.
The unadorned moderne style of this service is in keeping with a contemporary Scandinavian aesthetic that was expressed in various media in the American decorative arts of the early to mid-twentieth century. As with many examples of the period, its gentle curves present a buoyant stance countered by strong geometry of the circular shoulder and prominent C-scroll handles.
John F. Davis Jr. was born in Cambridge and attended the Cambridge School, in nearby Weston. As a teenager, he studied painting on Saturdays at the Vesper George School in Boston and learned metalworking in summer workshops at Camp Idlewilde, Lake Winnipesaukee, where he was taught by Museum School professor Joseph L. Sharrock (d. 1962).
Davis’s long-term affiliation with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, began with childhood visits and a membership that he has retained since 1942. He entered the Jewelry and Silversmithing Department at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in 1946 (fig. 4). Davis received the Boit Prize in 1949 and, the following academic year, the Special Gem Prize, in which a precious stone is awarded to the winner. He also received a traveling fellowship in 1949, which he used to go to Denmark, Germany, and England.
Davis received prestigious commissions even before graduation in 1950. Among these were a baptismal bowl, a ciborium, a pair of altar cruets, and a chalice given to Trinity Church, Boston, in memory of its rector, Dr. Theodore P. Ferris.
After graduation, Davis was appointed assistant professor to Sharrock in the Jewelry and Metalsmithing Department, a position he retained for several years before relocating to Philadelphia, where he worked as a jeweler for J. E. Caldwell. Several other secular and ecclesiastical commissions followed in the 1970s and 1980s, including a pair of candlesticks and a baptismal bowl for the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Davis worked independently as a studio silversmith and jeweler until his retirement in the mid-1980s.
This tea service was fashioned while Davis was enrolled in the Museum School. Beautifully raised, shaped, and planished, it admirably demonstrates the high level of skill expected of students during the late 1940s and 1950s, an era when silversmithing experienced a revival. A demitasse set with scroll-cut decoration, a bracelet, and two rings by Davis are also in the Museum’s collection.
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.
“STERLING” in sans-serif letters, “ENTIRELY HAND / WROUGHT” in sans-serif letters, and “J.F. Davis, Jr.” in script struck incuse on base.
Fashioned while a student at the Museum School. Retained by artist until made a gift in 1995.
Gift in memory of John F. Davis, Sr.
Reproduced with permission.