Charles Alexander Burnett Coin Silver Bowl, Washington,DC, c. 1805.
A rare and fine piece, this oval bowl is boat-shaped with a stepped pedestal foot. It features a handcrafted band of ogee molding around the rim, the top edge decorated with applied hand chased gadrooning. This bowl was probably a waste bowl in a tea service.
It is marked "C.A. Burnett" in a rectangle with an eagle head in a cropped rectangular cartouche, measures 6.5 inches long, 4.5 inches wide, 5 inches high and weighs 12.6 troy ounces. It is monogrammed "RSR" in a beautiful foliate script and is in very good antique condition. We recently acquired this piece privately, where it was affectionately (and jokingly) referred to as, "George Washington's eye cup."
Charles Alexander Burnett was the leading silversmith in Washington,DC, during the federal era and his silver is highly prized by collectors today. He sold to presidents and other high ranking officials of the young republic. His work was commissioned for official use as Indian Trade Silver by the Office of Indian Trade. Some of these orders were quite large, in 1808 he made 2000 small brooches for that office. He made the skippet used by the United States Department of State to convey the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. (Skippets are round boxes that cover and protect the official wax seal of a nation attached to a treaty.)
Starting with a shop in Alexandria,Virginia, Burnett moved to Georgetown (in DC) by 1800 where he employed apprentices and made and retailed silver, watches and jewelry (Hollan, In The Neatest Most Fashionable Manner: Three Centuries of Alexandria Silver, p. 34). There is speculation about how much Burnett silver was Washington made and how much was made by others and sold by him. He had wholesale relationships with Samuel Williamson of Philadelphia and Epapras Hinsdale in Newark,NJ. Williamson sometimes marked silver with a similar bird mark, and there is speculation that many tea wares retailed by Burnett were made by Williamson. In fact, a near identical bowl with Williamson's mark is in the collection at Winterthur. (See Ian Quimby, American Silver at Winterthur, p. 465.)
Museums have long collected Burnett's work and it can be found in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution (both the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of American History), The Department of State, Yale University, The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, etc. The Lyceum in Alexandria, VA has an almost identical bowl in its collection (see Catherine Hollan, In The Neatest Most Fashionable Manner: Three Centuries of Alexandria Silver, p. 35) that was exhibited at the seminal 'Southern Silver' exhibition held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in 1968.
For more information see:
Catherine Hollan, In The Neatest Most Fashionable Manner: Three Centuries of Alexandria Silver
Martha Hamilton, Silver in the Fur Trade
Ian Quimby, American Silver at Winterthur
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