Bread or Cake Basket

William Braisted Heyer, American, 1776 - 1828


about 1820


Overall: 9 1/8 × 13 1/4 × 9 9/16 in. (23.2 × 33.6 × 24.3 cm)

Weight: 33 oz. (0.9 kg)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through a gift from the Estate of John H. Mudie, Class of 1949, in memory of Ernest Martin Hopkins, Class of 1901



Place Made: United States, North America


19th century

Object Name

Tools and Equipment: Food Service

Research Area

Decorative Arts

Not on view


Signed (with touches, twice, on the bottom): W. B. HEYER


Commonly referred to as “cake baskets”—though they likely also held bread, fruit, and flowers—these elegant silver containers represented an increasing specialization of food service items that paralleled advances in silver manufacturing techniques and an ever more elaborate code of dining etiquette that would reach its high point in the Victorian period.

Neoclassical elements of this example include its sleek form, claw and ball feet, acanthus-leaf and fleur-de-lis border and, most distinctively, its applied Medusa heads at the ends of the bowl. These are based on Hellenistic representations of Medusa as a beautiful victim rather than a horrid Gorgon (see the marble sculpture of a beautiful Medusa by Harriet Hosmer in the nearby sculpture gallery). Also noteworthy is the die-rolled patterned border on the handle that features idealized pastoral vignettes. Such imagery ideally suited an American clientele that increasingly associated national identity with an Arcadian ideal.

From the 2019 exhibition American Art, Colonial to Modern, curated by Barbara J. MacAdam, Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art

Exhibition History

American Art, Colonial to Modern, Israel Sack Gallery and Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-September 12, 2021.

The World of Duncan Phyfe: The Arts of New York, 1800–1847, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, December 15, 2011 - February 17, 2012.

Publication History

Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, 2011–12, The World of Duncan Phyfe: The Arts of New York, 1800–1847, p. 99 no. 53 illus. 99 (discussed pp 96–97).

Stuart P. Feld and Elizabeth Feld, “The Arts of New York, 1800–1847: The World of Duncan Phyfe,” The Magazine Antiques 179, no. 1(January–February, 2012), 216–25, illus. p. 219.


Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York, New York; sold to present collection, 2014.

This record is part of an active database that includes information from historic documentation that may not have been recently reviewed. Information may be inaccurate or incomplete. We also acknowledge some language and imagery may be offensive, violent, or discriminatory. These records reflect the institution’s history or the views of artists or scholars, past and present. Our collections research is ongoing.

We welcome questions, feedback, and suggestions for improvement. Please contact us at: