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Sugar Bowl and Cover

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Sugar Bowl and Cover

circa 1770
5 1/4 in. x 4 1/2 in. x 4 1/2 in. (13.34 cm x 11.43 cm x 11.43 cm)
Gift of Laura E. Dwight and Frances H. Dwight, 1974.37a,b

William W. Gilbert

Wealthy colonists who aspired to be fashionable during the second half of the eighteenth century purchased the finest silver accoutrements for their tea tables. Before 1800, entire matched silver tea sets, while available, were not popular. Most people preferred and could only afford to supplement their ceramic forms with a few choice pieces of silver. Those who had the means sometimes ordered sets of silver sugar bowls and cream pots, like this elaborately carved set by William Gilbert.

This Rococo sugar bowl and cream pot compare favorably with the work of the finest London goldsmiths, whose work could be found in every colonial port. Chased, scrolling floral decoration accentuates the robust curves of the pyriform bodies. Asymmetrical cartouches, hallmarks of Rococo decoration, appear on both pieces, with the monogram "L V K." Several features identify this set's New York origin: the cream pot's Gothic S-curved handle, the sugar bowl's reel lid, and the contoured pedestals. The shape of the sugar bowl is based on an earlier, undecorated silver sugar-bowl form that was based on the simple form of a chinese porcelain cup. A similar, but more elaborately decorated set by Pieter de Riemar (1738-1814), also of New York, was made for the Van Rensselaer family around 1760. The similarities are striking enough to suggest that Gilbert may have seen the de Riemar set or perhaps received some of his training from the older silversmith.

William Gilbert first advertised as a silversmith in the mid-1770s in New York. During his lifetime he held various city offices, including alderman, and was elected state senator in 1809.

WNH and KB


V. Isabelle Miller. Silver by New York Makers. Ex. cat. Museum of the City of New York, 1938. P. 14.

Morrison H. Heckscher and Leslie Greene Bowman. American Rococo, 1750-1775: Elegance in Ornament. Ex. cat. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992. Pp. 81-83, 89-94.

1995-1997 "American Art from the Currier Gallery of Art." Organized by the Currier Gallery of Art and the American Federation of Arts. Traveled to: Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, FL, Dec. 3, 1995 - Jan. 28, 1996; Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, FL, Mar. 15 - Apr. 7, 1996; Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, VA, Aug. 10 - Oct. 13, 1996; The Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, TN, Feb. 2 - Mar. 30, 1997; Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA, Apr. 25 - June 22, 1997; Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester, NH, July 18 - Sept. 8, 1997, cat. no. 56.

2001-2002 "Myer Myers: Jewish Silversmith in Colonial New York." Organized by the Yale University Art Gallery. Traveled to: Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT, Sept. 14 - Dec. 30, 2001; Skirball Museum and Cultural Center, Los Angeles, CA, Feb. 20 - May 26, 2002; The Henry Francis duPont Winterthur Museum, Winterthur, DE, June 20 - Sept. 13, 2002.

Frances H. and Laura E. Dwight (sisters)
Gift to Currier Gallery of Art, 1974

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