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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755
603.646.2808
hood.museum@dartmouth.edu

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Benjamin Burt, American, 1729-1805

Pair of Beakers
1797
Silver
Gift of Louise C. and Frank L. Harrington, Class of 1924; M.966.115.1-2

 

The engraved beakers by Benjamin Burt were made for Major John Bray (about 1761–1829) as part of a set of eight. Tradition holds that they were used with the water pitcher by Paul Revere II, which was also engraved “BRAY.” Both forms exemplify the Roman and Greek ideals of symmetry and simplicity that formed the basis of the neoclassical style. The shape of the elegantly proportioned pitcher undoubtedly was inspired by transfer-printed creamware jugs exported from England and popular in America after 1800. Twelve of Revere’s pitchers of this type are known today, and, over the centuries, others have copied the form nearly as often as his well-known Sons of Liberty bowl of 1768. At the end of the eighteenth century, the introduction of the plating mill, which made thin sheets of silver that could be cut and seamed, allowed silversmiths to greatly increase production while cutting costs. Both Benjamin Burt and Paul Revere II would dominate the silver trade in Boston during the last half of the eighteenth century and vied for some of the most important commissions to originate in that city and surrounding towns. Burt, however, never achieved the fame of Boston patriot Revere, who was six years his junior. The son of the French-born Apollos Rivoire, from whom he learned his trade, Revere was the most prolific silversmith of his era and achieved renown for his skill as an engraver as well as for his silversmithing. Less well known are his business activities in selling hardware and picture framing or his experiments with rolling and milling copper and casting bells at his foundry on Lynn Street.

Last Updated: 4/29/09