John Coney (American, 1655 or 1656–1722)
Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts
21.84 x 23.09 cm (8 5/8 x 9 1/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Burton A. Cleaves Gallery (Gallery LG27)
The large, raised, cylindrical tankard tapers slightly toward the rim. It features an applied baseband and applied and scored lip. The flat-topped lid has a scored and crenate rim. A large cast and chased eagle thumbpiece descends to a five-part hinge and molded hingeplate. The seamed scrolled handle is attached to the body with a slender rattail at upper joining and has a cast pierced cherub at terminus, with rounded vent hole below.
This majestic tankard is one of several made by Coney at midcareer. Almost too large to pass from one drinker to another, the vessel would have been admired by visitors, who would have easily grasped the wealth and importance of its owner.
The unusual eagle or griffin thumbpiece is a rare cast that has been found on several other tankards of about the same date. A tankard by Coney with a Hartford provenance (Wads-worth Atheneum) displays the same eagle thumbpiece and cherub terminus. A related example with a low stepped lid, made by Samuel Vernon (MMA), is perhaps slightly later. An Edward Winslow tankard (Albany Institute of History and Art) has been heavily altered but features the same eagle. It is possible that Vernon apprenticed with Winslow, since they were first cousins, related through their Hutchinson mothers; this relationship may account for the use of the same thumbpiece. Due to the similarities, it is likely that one individual cast the thumbpiece and sold it to the others, a division of labor that is still little understood due to lack of period documentation.
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.
Inscribed on base: C/I*M. Shield-shaped armorial of the Cranston family is emblazoned gules three cranes argent within anembattled bordure; the crest a crane passant ppr. facing dexter, on a torse. The whole surrounded by stylized foliate, fishscale, and scrolled decoration. The Motto DUM VIGILO CURO ("careful while watching" or "I care while I watch") engraved below on a banner.
On lid, handle, and base is stamped "IC" crowned over a coney, within a shield-shaped cartouche.
Possibly made for Samuel Cranston (1659-1727), governor of RI from 1698-1710; possibly descent to his son James (1701-1732); probably gift to William Wanton (1670-1733), governor of RI 1732-3; by descent to Mr and Mrs W. Wanton Dunnell; 1924, lent by Mrs W. Wanton Dunnell to MFA; 1940, transferred to William W Dunnell, Jr (1894-1980); 1978, gift of Mr William W Dunnell, Jr and his wife Ellen Frothingham (d 2001) to the MFA. (Accession date: June 14, 1978)
Gift: Mr. and Mrs William W. Dunnell, Jr.