Teapot, part of a five-piece coffee and tea service

1929
Designed by George Christian Gebelein (American, born in Germany, 1878–1945), Gebelein Silversmiths (1908 to about 1960)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

Dimensions

Overall: 22.3 x 11.2 x 24 cm, 0.6 kg (8 3/4 x 4 7/16 x 9 7/16 in., 1.4 lb.)

Accession Number

1986.782

Medium or Technique

Silver, ebonized wood

Out on Loan

On display at Cooper Hewitt, NY, April 7, 2017 – August 20, 2017

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The teapot is raised into a fluted, urn-shaped form having an elliptical base. The vessel is soldered to a short stem with a splayed, round foot secured to a square plinth. The coffee pot has a sharply defined, concave shoulder that rises to an applied collar intended to receive a tall lid. A small, five-part hinge and flange secures the lid, whose shape echoes the concave shoulder and rises to a bell-shaped device, topped with a flame finial.

The teapot has a carved ebonized handle with a tendril thumbgrip that is pinned into sockets that are circular in section. It has a delicate, seamed spout that swells to an elliptical form at the point of contact with the vessel; strainer holes mirror this shape from within.

Bright-cut engraving throughout in the colonial revival style consists of swagged decoration, with foliate corners on plinth and top of lids; roulette engraved wrigglework found along edges.


This tea and coffee service demonstrates Gebelein’s indebtedness to colonial silversmith Paul Revere, from whom he traced his apprenticeship lineage through the firm Goodnow and Jenks (1893–1905). It is thought that Gebelein borrowed closely from a covered sugar bowl by Revere, now in the Museum’s collection, that has the same shape, ornamentation, and pinecone finial and was displayed in the 1906 exhibition
of American silver at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gebelein made all the pieces in his set to match; Revere, however, would have combined more than one style body. For example, a typical Revere tea service might have a pinecone finial on the teapot and a flame finial on the lidded sugar bowl. Gebelein’s teapot displays the same round foot on a square plinth as the other forms in the set; by contrast, Revere’s teapots typically rested on a stand.
Commissioned by a Boston patron as a wedding present in 1929, this service includes an unusual colonial form, the teakettle on stand, which late-nineteenth-century silversmiths reintroduced. Gebelein jobbed out parts of this order, most likely to ensure his profit margin. The bodies of the separate pieces are believed to have been created in the Gebelein shop; P. Charles Machon at Goodnow and Jenks supplied the cast handles, and Harold Small executed the engraving. Despite Gebelein’s cultivated reputation as a colonial-style silversmith who fashioned every piece from start to finish, the shop took advantage of methods that increased efficiency without sacrificing quality. These included spinning forms that were later hammered to suggest a completely handwrought vessel. It is known that Revere also jobbed out parts of his commissions and made use of new technological advances, such as prefabricated sheet silver, to enhance production and curtail costs.

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

On the body to right of handle, "N. T." is engraved in clear roman letters; the date "November 22, 1929" appears in script on the base of the circular foot.

Markings

Inside stem, on base of vessel, is stamped "Gebelein" in a shaped cartouche, "STERLING" in incuse sans-serif letters, and "Boston" in italics struck in a third corner on the bottom.

Provenance

Given anonymously by the original owner.

Credit Line

Anonymous gift