The Boston Mace

English (London)
1727
Marked by Gabriel Sleath (1674–1756)


Dimensions

Diameter and length: 7.9 x 37.8 cm (3 1/8 x 14 7/8 in.) Weight: 16 oz.

Accession Number

2017.1

Medium or Technique

Silver, with internal wooden shaft

On View

Alan and Simone Hartman Galleries (Gallery 241)

Classifications

Silver hollowware

The ceremonial mace of the mayor of the town of Boston, Lincolnshire, consists of five pieces that fit together and are held in place by an interior wooden rod. The upper and lower shafts are hollow, fitting over the rod and meeting at a central knop. The upper end has four cast S-shaped figural brackets that abut the underside of the head. The underside of the top has been fitted with a threaded ferule that screws into the end of the central rod. The top surface of the mace bears the coat of arms of George I, a cast medal set into the lid, whose crown-like rim is a cast and applied band of openwork fleur-de-lys. The mace head is raised and chased with badges of the monarch (Tudor rose, Scottish thistle, Celtic harp, and French fleur de lys) on a stippled ground and alternating with winged putti. The terminal of the mace is engraved, “Sam. Abbott Gent. Mayor / 1727”.


This ceremonial staff was a symbol of the mayor’s authority in the town of Boston, in Lincolnshire, England. It would have been present when civic business was conducted. The seal of the king (George I) is at the top, surrounded by emblems of England (Tudor rose), Scotland (thistle), Ireland (harp), and France (fleur-de-lys). The name of the mayor in 1727, Samuel Abbott, is engraved on the end of the handle. The town sold the mace in 1837, after Parliament passed legislation to make local governments “more useful and efficient.”

Inscription

The end of the terminal is engraved, "Sam. Abbott Gent. Mayor 1727"

Markings

Stamped twice with the maker's mark, GS (Grimwade # 890)

Provenance

1727, commissioned by the town of Boston, Lincolnshire, England; June 1, 1837, Boston Corporation Plate sale, through George Miller, at the Guildhall, Boston, England, lot 67, to Richard Connington, Boston; by descent to his widow; December 6, 1906, consigned by the estate of Mrs. Richard Connington, Christie’s, London, lot 93, sold for £400 to Crichton Bros., London; between 1906 and 1913, sold by Crichton Bros. to Caroline Wadleigh (Mrs. Washington B.) Thomas (b. 1861 - d. 1939), Boston MA; 1913 until 1916, on loan from Mrs. Thomas to the MFA [see note 1]. November 30, 1934, sold, probably by Mrs. Thomas, through Louis Joseph Auction Galleries, Boston, to William Randolph Hearst (b. 1863 – d. 1951), New York; April 30, 1941, William Randolph Hearst sale, Hammer Galleries at Gimbel Bros., New York, lot 1167-1 [see note 2], probably sold to Irwin Untermyer (b. 1886 – d. 1973), New York [see note 3]; around 1968, given by Untermyer to Robert S. Pirie (b. 1934 – d. 2015), New York; sold by the estate of Robert S. Pirie to S. J. Shrubsole (dealer), New York; 2017, sold by S. J. Shrubsole to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 18, 2017)

NOTES:
[1] Loan no. 989.13. [2] The mace is mentioned by A. J. Liebling, “Hearst with his own Petard,” The New Yorker, November 19, 1938, p. 40, among the objects that would be sold from the Hearst collection. MFA curator Georg Swarzenski was photographed holding the mace in 1941 at the Hearst sale held at Gimbel Bros., New York. It is described in the 1941 Hearst catalogue as “a Town Mace, ca 1714” under English silver and gold. [3] Irwin Untermyer bought other pieces of silver at the Hearst auctions, and probably acquired the mace when it was sold in 1941. See Yvonne Hackenbroch, English and Other Silver in the Irwin Untermyer Collection (New York, 1963), cat. 87.

Credit Line

Mary S. and Edward J. Holmes Fund