Object Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Buhler, 1972, No. 520
Overall: 3.2 x 17 cm (1 1/4 x 6 11/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Regional Styles in Middle Colonies Gallery (Gallery 134)
This majestic coffeepot is among the best Rococo silver produced in Philadelphia. The double-bellied form, gadrooned borders on the foot and lid, and scrolled, curving spout are characteristic hallmarks of the style, but perhaps the most beautiful passage of the object is on the side: the coat of arms and crest of a horse engraved within a delicate shell and foliate cartouche. The accompanying salver is supported on claw-and-ball feet and is engraved with the same coat of arms at its center. Shown here as a support for the coffeepot, it could also have been used as a server or stand for a single teacup, saucer, and spoon. Fashioning stands en suite with teapots and coffeepots seems to have been common in Philadelphia, although the custom is rarely encountered elsewhere in American silver.
The talented Quaker silversmith Richard Humphreys was born in Tortola in the British West Indies. Apprenticed to Bancroft Woodcock in Wilmington, Delaware, he opened his own shop in Philadelphia in 1772. Although a relatively small number of objects by him are known, each-like this coffeepot and salver-is extraordinary. After service in the Revolution (for which he was censured by the Quaker Friends), he resumed his craft at “The Sign of the Coffee Pot” on Front Street in 1781 and later at different locations. He is perhaps best known as the maker of a large Neoclassical urn presented to Charles Thomson by the Continental Congress in 1774, when he was elected secretary of that political body, a position he held until 1789. That urn is engraved by James Smither, who may have executed the engraving here.
This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.
Engraved "WSS" at base of handle, probably for original owner; inherited about 1935 by Dr. George Clymer, Boston, Massachusetts, from his maternal grand-aunts, Misses Mary and Sally Fisher; lent to the Museum in 1939 by Dr. Clymer; given to the Museum in 1956 by Mrs. Susan Clymer, then of Longmeadow, Massachusetts, and Peterborough, New Hampshire.
Gift in memory of Dr. George Clymer by his wife, Mrs. Clymer