Elias Pelletreau (American, 1726–1810)
Object Place: Southampton, Long Island, New York
Overall: 19.4 × 21.3 × 14.4 cm (7 5/8 × 8 3/8 × 5 11/16 in.)
Medium or Technique
Not On View
The broad tankard has slightly tapering sides, with a large stepped molding applied to the base and a proportionately smaller molding, with two narrow scored bands, at lip. The broad lid has a scored edge and a crenate edge opposite the handle and to each side of the hingeplate. The flat-top lid is lightly scored with several concentric circles and has a narrow and wider step that rises from the flange. The cast thumbpiece is scrolled on the side facing the lid. A five-part hinge leads to a baluster-shaped decoration on the raised, seamed, scroll handle, which ends in a plain oval terminus, with a round air vent below. The handle is attached to the body at the top with a short, wide rattail that has a circular air vent at tip. A small round disk attaches the lower handle section to body, above baseband.
Pelletreau was especially successful in selling his work to a geographically dispersed population, ranging from Connecticut and New Jersey to the environs of New York, including his native Long Island. He was aided by his sons John and Elias Jr. and by a grandson, William Smith Pelletreau. Dean Failey has noted that Pelletreau’s account books recorded the sale of fifty-seven tankards, most of which had broad and plain bodies, a flat-topped lid, rigorous base molding, and cast scrolled thumbpieces, as found in both this example and the preceding Winthrop family vessel (cat. no. 104).
This tankard, engraved “C * F,” links three Long Island families distinguished by patriotic service during the American Revolution and for their patronage of this successful local silversmith. Pelletreau made silver for Charity Floyd, sister of William Floyd (1734 – 1821), a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and wife of Yale-educated Ezra L’Hommedieu, who was a participant in the New York Provincial Congress, delegate to the Continental Congress, and a framer of the Constitution of 1777. Pelletreau also made two canns for William Floyd’s daughter Mary (1763 – 1805), the first wife of soldier and congressman Benjamin Tallmadge (1754 – 1835).
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.
"C * F" on handle below baluster decoration. Scratch weight of "36 / oz" incised on base, above which appears "88691" as later engraved notation.
Below lip, to right and left of handle, is marked "E P" in roman letters within a rectangle.
The tankard was probably made for Charity Floyd (1739/40 – 1785) about the time of her 1765 marriage to the Hon. Ezra L’Hommedieu (1734 – 1811), whose portrait by Ralph Earl is in the Museum’s collection.3 The tankard passed to his daughter by his second marriage to Mary Catherine Havens, Mary Catherine L’Hommedieu (1806 – 1838), m. Samuel Smith Gardiner (1789 – 1859) of Shelter Island, New York, in 1823. By descent to their daughter Frances Eliza Gardiner (1832 – 1876) and George Martin Lane (1824 – 1897), professor of Latin at Harvard College, m. 1857.4 The tankard passed to their son Gardiner Martin Lane (1859 – 1914), president of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from 1907 until his death in 1914, and Emma Louise Gildersleeve (1872 – 1954), m. 1898; thence to their daughter, the animalier Katharine Lane Weems (Mrs. F. Carrington Weems) (1899 – 1989), whose many sculptures are in the Museum’s collection.
Bequest of Katharine Lane Weems