Teapot (part of a four-piece tea service)

about 1825
Charles Alexander Burnett (1769–1848)


Object Place: Georgetown, District of Columbia, United States

Dimensions

20.5 x 29.6 x 15.5 cm (8 1/16 x 11 5/8 x 6 1/8 in.)

Accession Number

1993.218.1

Medium or Technique

Silver

On View

Behind the Scenes: Classifying (Gallery and Lobby) (Gallery 225)

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The teapot has been raised with repousséd lobes that extend vertically from the foot. It stands on an applied, low, round foot having a die-stamped band of oak-and-grape-leaf clusters applied to the vertical edge of the foot. The side of the body flares to a convex die-stamped band of same ornament below a milled band of gadrooning at shoulder. The teapot narrows to a round neck edged with a gadrooned bezel. The high curved spout is rectangular in section, with a star-patterned boss soldered to a retracted upper lip. The round cover has smaller lobes on a raised dome and a flat five-part hinge. The finial is a replacement. The handle sockets are rectangular in section and hold an angled wooden handle that retains traces of original black paint.


As with the service that Justice Bushrod Washington commissioned from Charles Alexander Burnett (cat. no. 137), this tea set was ordered by a member of the federal government who had moved to the District of Columbia. The owner, Richard Cutts of Cutts Island, Maine, was a direct descendant of John Cutts, the seventeenth-century governor of New Hampshire. Cutts followed his distinguished ancestor in public service when, in 1801, he became the first member of Congress to hail from Maine. He later served as Comptroller of the Treasury under President James Madison, among other posts.
Cutts’s relationship to the Madison presidency was more than official, for in 1804 he had married Anna Payne, sister of Dolley Madison (Dorothy Payne Todd, 1768 – 1849). That same year, the two couples patronized painter Gilbert Stuart, who produced likenesses of both. Although it is unknown whether the Madisons owned a Burnett tea service, the president owned a snuffbox that the craftsman made between 1815 and 1825. The Cuttses probably acquired this set from Burnett in the mid- to late 1820s, judging from its ample proportions, prominent lobes, and broad bands of milled decoration that characterize early Empire-era silver. The vessel form closely resembles a teapot in the Hammerslough collection, although the simple treatment of the spout and wooden handle is modest compared to the vigorously chased animal figures on the latter.

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

Scratch weight of "26 5" on bottom of vessel above center point.

Markings

On bottom "C.A. BURNETT" in a rectangle, below an eagle's head device at center point.
Ada Mark X

Provenance

Set originally owned by Anna Payne Cutts (1779-1832), daughter of John and Mary (Coles) Payne, and sister of First Lady Dolly Madison, who married Richard Cutts, son of Col. Thomas and Elizabeth (Scammon) in 1804. The set descended to their son, Richard Dominicus Cutts (1817-1883), who married Martha Jefferson Hackley in 1845. In turn, the set was made a gift to their son, Harry Madison Cutts, M.D. (1858-1918) of Brookline, who maried Marion Belcher in 1891. Their son George Cutts (1895-1976) inherited the service. His wife, Priscilla (Whipple) Cutts of Wellesley (1903-1994) gave the service to her sons, the donors.

Sources:
Cecil Hampden Cutts Howard, Genealogy of the Cutts Family in America (Albany, N.Y.: Joel Munsell's Sons, Publishers, 1892), p. 86, 168; Lawrence Park, comp., Gilbert Stuart (New York: William Edward Rudge, 1926), 1:248-250, 499; III:121-2, plates 202-03, 515.

Credit Line

Gift of the Robert Whipple Cutts and Henry Madison Cutts