Punch strainer

about 1745–50
Paul Revere, Sr. (American (born in France, baptized Apollos Rivoire), 1702–1754)


Object Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Dimensions

24.1 x 3.5 cm (9 1/2 x 1 3/8 in.)

Accession Number

1991.1011

Medium or Technique

Silver

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Silver flatware

The large shallow bowl with applied rim has delicate pierced decoration of numerous small crosses that form a circular field in the lower half of the bowl; an intermittent band of floral elements appears above. A stylized geometric and floral frieze is pierced below the rim. Two simple, flat scrolled handles diametrically opposite each other are soldered below the rim at an angle to the strainer. Substantial and unskilled repairs, probably made in the nineteenth century, are located on the bowl at the juncture with each handle.


Orange strainers, or “cullenders,” were used by the English as early as 1533. In that year, “a Strayner of golde for orrenges X oz” appeared in the inventory of the Royal Jewel House. The scarcity of oranges in England at this early date probably accounts for the special name given to the form, which evolved into “punch strainer” due to not only the rising popularity of that beverage but also the regular shipments of Spanish oranges to England by the mid-eighteenth century.
Some early English strainers resembled large spoons whose bowls were pierced with small holes. A hook opposite the handle was used to secure the utensil to one side of the punch bowl, thereby steadying the user’s hand. In time, versions emerged with two handles, which were long enough to extend across the diameter of period punch bowls. Such forms allowed the juice of oranges and lemons to be introduced into the punch within a restricted area and enabled smooth ladling unencumbered by citrus pulp and seeds. Most bowls were pierced with simple uniform rows, but over time some received elaborately pierced decorative patterns, which guests could admire while waiting to be served. Strainers fell out of fashion in the late eighteenth century, when wine funnels, introduced for the decanting of sediment, were used for citrus fruits as well.
In the colonies, punch strainers typically had two handles, which progressed in style from flat shaped sheets or simple wire to elongated cast versions of porringer handles as well as more delicate forms in the Rococo style. Pierced decoration, achieved with a drill and jeweler’s saw, rapidly progressed from the above-mentioned simple circular arrangements to lively patterns that included text. Jonathan Clarke, of Providence and Newport, made such a strainer for Jabez Bowen of Providence; it bears his name, that of his city, and the date of January 1765 in a circle below the rim and around a flower-shaped central design.
Paul Revere I’s dome-shaped strainer bowl shows the result of successful experimentation with a pierced cross-shaped design, and its plain wire handles are in keeping with its early date.

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

None.

Markings

Marked "P. Revere" in script within a rectangle under the outermost section of each handle.

Provenance

Early history unknown, with possible descent in the family of Gershom (1705-1771) and Hannah Flagg (1711-1784) of Boston, ancestors of the donor. In this century, the punch strainer descended from the Massachusetts antiquarian and American paintings scholar, Reverend Henry Wilder Foote (1875-1964) to his son Caleb Foote, the donor.

Credit Line

Gift in memory of Henry Wilder Foote, 1875–1964