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
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.
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.
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