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Jones, Ball & Poor Coin Silver Butter Dish, c. 1845-50, probably by Woodward & Grosjean

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This is one of the most striking butter dishes we have ever seen with craftsmanship and execution far superior to most. The lower half is elevated on four legs terminating with pad feet and connecting to the body with triangular foliate knees. Even the oval shape is very uncommon (and hand-raised examples like this were much more labor intensive than the more common circular examples which were spun up on a lathe).

Underneath, scrolling foliate and floral decoration incorporates two reserves, one with an engraved family crest of a horse head above the initial 'W'; the other reserve was never engraved. An applied edge reinforces and decorates the rim above lobed foliate decoration. The original insert conforms to the graceful slope and is hand-pierced with circular punches.

Exoticism is clearly evidenced by the opulent design of the domed cover with large, elaborate leaves hanging down with ends folded over as if blowing in the wind. Surmounting the dome is a magnificent sculptural full figure of an Asian man holding a cup.

Jones, Ball & Poor was Boston's leading jeweler during this period, the partnership ultimately becoming Shreve, Crump and Low in 1869. Silver bearing the Jones, Ball and Poor mark and the actual maker's marks on items sold by the firm is very uncommon. Boston items of the early 19th century are rarely found with makers marks on them. It was traditional with both silver and furniture for only the retailer to mark the item: this is why attributions of furniture and silver from this period can be so difficult.

While the Jones, Ball and Poor mark has traditionally been ascribed as a maker's mark (they claimed to make fine silver in city directories), it is often only a retail mark - usually seen without a makers mark. (Obadiah Rich was one of their major suppliers.)

Assuming Jones, Ball & Poor was the retailer, we think this piece was likely made by Woodward & Grosjean based on a marked item we know with the exact same leaf motif. Woodward and Grosjean started in Boston in the late 1840's and moved to New York in 1850 to become Grosjean and Woodward, the important supplier to Tiffany & Company.

This very rare butter dish is marked underneath, JONES, BALL & POOR/ Pure Coin'. It measures 6.5 inches long by 4.25 inches deep by 7 inches high and weighs 21.10 troy ounces. The liner has a few light surface scratches, otherwise it is in excellent condition.