Henricus Boelen (1697–1755)

Object Place: New York, New York


Overall: 16.7 x 5.1 cm (6 9/16 x 2 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


On View

Burton A. Cleaves Gallery (Gallery LG27)




Silver flatware

The spoon has a cast handle with upturned tip in a vegetal auricular style soldered to a large wide bowl with slender, pointed rattail drop.

A group of spoons produced in seventeenth-century New York by newly arrived immigrants from the Netherlands and their progeny are notable for richly modeled handles influenced by the Dutch auricular style, aspects of which evoke the bud, leaf, and stem. The irregular casting quality, and the likely shared use of the same or similar molds by more than one generation of silversmiths, has hampered a full understanding of these designs. Spoons bearing hoof handles and caryatids in addition to the vegetal forms described above were also favored by New York silversmiths.
Scholars once believed the production of such spoons had ceased by 1700. However, Ian Quimby’s reassignment of the mark of the conjoined “HB” within a shaped shield from Hendrick Boelen (1666 – 1691), now thought to be a gunsmith, to the younger silversmith Henricus Boelen suggests that this form, like the ubiquitous New England porringer, may have remained popular with Dutch descendants long after it had passed out of use in the Netherlands. A small group of these spoons has been found to play a commemorative role in marking birth or death, and these customs may have sustained the use of this form into the early decades of the eighteenth century.
Henricus may have had access to the spoon molds used by his father, Jacob, although few examples by the elder Boelen are known. Several auricular-style spoons bearing the latter’s “IB” barred mark do not resemble the spoon in this entry; however, about five examples in the midrib or wavy style demonstrate the elder Boelen’s facility with a later design. The close resemblance of Henricus’s spoon to one by Cornelius van der Burch in the Yale collection suggests that such swages were probably available to the Boelens.
Since this spoon and a two-handled bowl by Jacob Boelen (cat. no. 4) bear the same “AR” initials, they may have been fabricated contemporaneously. If so, the order was probably placed in the Boelen workshop between about 1718 and 1729, when father and son may have been working together.

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.


Engraved "A R" in roman letters on back of bowl, above mark.


Marked "HB" conjoined in a faint crowned shield, on back of bowl.


Probaby by descent to Mason Meyers Phelps of Newtonville, Massachusetts; 1946, lent by Mr Mason Phelps to the MFA; by descent to his daughter and son; 1992, purchased by the MFA. (Accession date: Nov 18, 1992)

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds donated by a friend of the Department of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture and the Frank B. Bemis Fund