Chalice and paten
Cooper & Fisher (active 1854–1862), Francis W. Cooper (American, 1815–1898), Richard Fisher (American, active 1858–1862), Decorated by Henry P. Horlor (English, 1823–after 1881), Engraved by Segel (American, born in Germany)
Object Place: New York, New York, United States
186, Falino and Ward
Overall (Chalice): 25.1 x 14 cm, 0.9 kg (9 7/8 x 5 1/2 in., 2 lb.) Overall (Paten): 1.3 x 24.1 cm, 0.5 kg (1/2 x 9 1/2 in., 1 lb.)
Medium or Technique
Silver, silver-gilt, enamel
Waleska Evans James Gallery (Gallery 236)
The chalice stands on a splayed foot with applied
twisted-chain edging and pierced quatrefoils on the applied vertical section of the foot. Lobed hexagonal sections rising from the foot contain three engraved panels with champlevé enamel in opaque blue, white, and translucent red that depict the Crucifixion, Pentecost, and Baptism of Christ. Interspersed within these are three panels engraved with the images of St. George slaying the dragon; St. John the Evangelist; and the martyrdom of a kneeling bearded man at the hands of a soldier. The figure may be St. Alban, Protomartyr of England.
The openwork stem consists of six twisted wire columns around a central pierced shaft; central baluster is chased with a cluster of prunts in the form of arches and quatrefoils.
The silver-gilt bowl (which has been regilded), with stylized floral engraving below the lip, is set in a silver calyx having egg-shaped reserves that reveal the bowl; the calyx framework is chased with the images of six angels whose outspread wings form spandrels between the reserves and below the gadrooned rim. Each angel displays an emblem of the Passion of Christ. Foliage is affixed between bowl and stem.
The round shallow paten with worn gilding has a raised circular boss at center, on which has been applied a champlevé portrait bust of the Pantocrator, that of Christ wearing the royal crown and halo and holding the orb, with right hand raised, right forefinger extended. Surrounding the enamel is a simple engraved border leading to a broad rim ornamented with Gothic text against matte strapwork; a gadrooned edge surrounds the whole.
This exceptional example of Gothic-revival communion silver represents some of the most ambitious work produced for the Episcopal church in the nineteenth century; it is also among the earliest enameled silver hollowware made in this country. Francis W. Cooper, the silversmith who fashioned the chalice and paten, is little known despite his fifty-year career in New York. Aside from church plate bearing his stamp, most of Cooper’s secular production was retailed by larger firms such as Tiffany & Co. without his own touchmark. Cooper was active in New York from 1842 until 1890, but his greatest activity probably occurred between 1854 and 1862, when jeweler Richard Fisher became his financial partner. During that time, Cooper & Fisher became the eighth-largest silver manufacturer in New York City.
Cooper’s success, and that of the Cooper & Fisher partnership, rose along with reforming efforts within the American Episcopal church. Prompted in part by the secularization of industrial society, Anglicans and Episcopalians (their American counterparts) wished to revitalize their congregations by recapturing the innocence and spirituality of the early Christian church. The English Ecclesiological Society of London was prominent among the reformers. Their circle was composed of prominent High Church Anglicans who drew upon elements of historic church architecture and embellishments for a fresh interpretation. Its membership hoped to reestablish a medieval framework for worship through the careful selection of liturgical programs and close supervision of designers.
Designs for communion plate received similar scrutiny. An 1843 article by English architect William Butterfield (1814 – 1900) titled “The Proper Shape of Chalices” appeared in the society’s publication, The Ecclesiologist. Butterfield invited the society to take a leadership role in establishing guidelines for the design and production of church plate. Within four years, Instrumenta Ecclesiastica was published under their guidance; it included 140 designs by Butterfield based upon medieval Gothic prototypes. The publication enabled the society to promote a sanctioned body of designs for churches wishing to order new communion silver. Church plate executed by London silversmith John James Keith (w. 1824 – 1870), under Butterfield’s supervision, received a medal at the Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851.
The New York Ecclesiological Society, formed in 1848, was the American counterpart to the English society. It appointed the Rev. John Henry Hopkins Jr. (1820 – 1891) to oversee the fabrication of silver using Butterfield’s designs. Acting on behalf of Episcopal churches wishing to purchase communion silver, Hopkins engaged Francis W. Cooper in 1851 as the New York society’s exclusive silversmith. Hopkins also made arrangements with Henry P. Horlor, an English enameler, who came with excellent credentials. Prior to his arrival in New York, Horlor had worked in London for the English Ecclesiastical Society, and the enamels he produced in New York are perhaps the first made for American hollowware. Engraving was performed by a craftsman named Segel, “an accomplished German artist in metal.” Chalices, patens, a footed paten, alms basins, and flagons were the chief forms of communion silver made under Hopkins’s direction.
It is puzzling how Cooper achieved his exclusive distinction. His religious affiliation is unknown, and it is unclear whether he fashioned any domestic silver for society members. Certainly the choice was made by Hopkins, who exerted broad powers to select a craftsman for this purpose. The result was that Cooper became the only American metalsmith to fashion a quantity of silver hollowware in the Gothic mode. James Cox (w. 1831 – 33) and Zalmon Bostwick (w. 1846 – 1852) of New York were notable craftsmen working in this style, as was Roswell Gleason (1799 – 1887) of Dorchester, Massachusetts, but their production was modest by comparison.
The chalice and paten originally formed part of a larger communion service that was made for Trinity Chapel in New York. As a satellite of Trinity Church, which today stands in Manhattan’s financial district, Trinity Chapel was established at West Twenty-fifth Street, near Broadway, and was intended to serve the church’s membership in what was then considered the town’s northern reaches. Designed by Richard Upjohn (1802 – 1878), the architect of Trinity Church, the chapel was dedicated in 1855. Upjohn’s High Church design was in harmony with Cooper’s paten, which displays broad Gothic lettering and a severe, frontal, Byzantine-style image of Christ. The pre-Reformation-style chalice resembles similar designs published by Augustus Welby North Pugin and updated by Butterfield.
The New York Ecclesiological Society was dissolved in 1855, but American Episcopal churches continued to request silver that followed Butterfield’s designs. Francis W. Cooper filled these orders long after his association with Richard Fisher ended in 1862, fashioning variants of the same designs until about 1875. When the larger firms such as Tiffany & Co. and Gorham opened their own ecclesiastical departments in the late nineteenth century, they continued to draw upon Butterfield’s designs as wrought by Cooper.
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.
Chalice: At scene of Baptism of Christ, on a ribbon above the figures in Gothic script: "This is my / beloved Son / in whom I am well pleased;" above the crucifixion [alpha] / [omega]; on the crucifix: "INRI." Underside of lobes marked with numbers intended to match with pierced quatrefoil edge. Numbering begins with 7, ending at 12, with other numbers, some of them duplicates, appearing as well.
Paten: Engraved on the rim in Gothic script, with each word separated by a leaf, and set within a band of hatched background engraving: "holy * holy * holy * Lord * God * of hosts heaven and earth are full of thy glory."
"COOPER & FISHER / 131 AMITY ST NY" in roman letters on each; the chalice is missing a portion of the street name. The chalice is marked on applied foot rim; the paten is marked on back
Originally made for Trinity Chapel, New York, about 1855. Subsequent history unknown until consigned by the Reverend Gregory T. Bittner to Sotheby's, New York, auction in 1996, where it was purchased by the Museum.
Gift of The Seminarians, Curator's Fund, and Ron Bourgeault