Mate cup

about 1820, with additions 1827-55
Possibly by Paulino Esperati (Uruguayan, active 1827–1855)

Object Place: possibly Uruguay; Object Place: Buenos Aires, Argentina (additions)


22.2 x 9.7 x 3.1 cm (8 3/4 x 3 13/16 x 1 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

William J. Fitzgerald Gallery (Gallery 135)




Silver hollowware

The egg-shaped gourd has a silver mount covering its upper third, including the rim. A two-part cast foliate handle, surmounted by a swan, is mounted on a tendril of the gourd, at right angles to the bowl. A second artist may have chased the lower silver mount depicted as a leafy form. The whole is supported by a cast and turned baluster and three mermaids of indeterminate gender that are made of sheet silver with chased decoration. The circular splayed base has been spun, and its foliate treatment may have been mechanically executed. The handle bears old repairs.

Similar in treatment to the Uruguayan mate cup in cat. no. 385, this delightfully decorated example was likely originally made in the same manner. On at least one later date, it was given additional silver mounts.
The cowl-like silver mount that surrounds the rim, with its lightly engraved geometric surface, and the more decorative cast handle are much like those of the cup in the previous entry. Executed in a different hand is a silver mount with fanlike foliate decoration that adorns the base of the gourd. The whole rests on a tripodal support of three mermaids holding flowers. The bowl is marked “Esperati,” probably for Paulino Esperati. Born in Mercedes, Uruguay, Esperati established himself in Buenos Aires by 1827 and was recorded as working there as late as 1855. The baluster and circular base may be the work of a third silversmith who perhaps worked with him. The base is spun and decorated with a stamped foliate design that differs from that on the cup’s central section.
The unusual assemblage of styles, hands, and techniques does not imply that an attempt was made to deceive. Rather, it appears that the vessel received attention at different times from craftsmen who probably worked in neighboring regions. Today the cup can be appreciated for these very features and for its rare maker’s mark.

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.




"ESPERANTI" in rectangle on lower mount.


Collected in Buenos Aires, Argentina, by Mr. and Mrs. Edmund P. Graves between 1898 and 1913.

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Ellen Graves, Mrs. Samuel Cabot and Mrs. Roger Ernst in memory of their father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Edmund P. Graves