F56

Charles Alexander Burnett Coin Silver Creamer, Washington, DC, c. 1810


A rare and fine piece, this oval shaped creamer features gadrooned banding decoration, a flat-paneled handle and a step-pedestal foot. One side is engraved 'EH' in a beautiful foliate script.

It is marked underneath "C.A. Burnett" in a rectangle with an eagle head in a cropped rectangular cartouche, measures 5.5 inches high by 5.5 inches long from handle to spout and weighs 6.85 troy ounces. There are also a museum accession number underneath '89.69' printed in red paint. It is in very good antique condition.

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 (and other Philadelphia makers including Joseph Lownes and William Seal) sometimes marked silver with a similar bird mark, and there is speculation that many tea wares retailed by Burnett were made by Philadelphia makers. In fact, a nearly identical waste 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, etc. The Lyceum in Alexandria, VA has an almost identical cream jug in its collection (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.

Provenance: Ex collection of the Virginia Museum of Art.

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