A560

Lewis E. Jenks Antique Sterling Silver Pitcher, Boston, c. 1875


This is a very high quality sterling water pitcher very similar to the famous Paul Revere pitcher which is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (See here.)

Lewis Jenks updates the classic form with a few enhancements. The handle has a subtle thumb piece and has changed from a c-scroll to s-scroll shape with a flat outside surface and curved interior for comfortable handling. An applied heart at the base of the handle is a lovely decoration. Rolled, applied bands border the base and top rim adding strength to the form.

The barrel-formed body is quite lovely with its plain, reflective surface. The front is engraved as a locket with ribbon containing an 'AAL' monogram.

The body of the pitcher is hand-raised from sheet, with the outside surface smoothly polished and the interior exhibiting the lovely hammering.

Having worked at the Boston firm of Bigelow Bros. & Kennard, Lewis Jenks went into business on his own c. 1872. As the working dates for Crosby, Morse & Foss end around 1875, we can fairly accurately date this pitcher to c. 1875. It is unusual to find Boston silver of this period marked by both the maker and retailer, usually only the retailer marked the silver.

In this piece, we see a very early example of colonial revival silver. In 1876, Philadelphia hosted the Centennial International Exposition, the first official world's fair held in the United States. It celebrated the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. For the first time, colonial revival design and architecture became patriotic and popular.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published Paul Revere's ride in the 1860's and this pitcher, based on Revere's designs, celebrates the hundredth birthday of his ride and the founding of our country.

Lewis Jenks was the most important Boston silversmith working in the 1870's. His creative genius is seen in the styles he incorporated into his pieces. From fine repoussé pieces in the popular 'Maryland' style (see here and here) to exceptional exotic pieces of the aesthetic movement (see here, here and here), his work is the finest made in Boston during this period. The people at Gorham thought he was so important they hired him in 1880 and bought out his firm.

His son, Barton Jenks, was a principal in Goodnow and Jenks, the leading Boston silversmithing firm of the 1890's. They sold important colonial revival silver of high quality with much handwork to an elite clientele. The firm was at the center of hand-crafted silversmithing as the arts & crafts movement began in Boston. The first exhibition by the Boston Society of Arts & Crafts in 1897 included a large display of silver: 'Designed by Barton P. Jenks. Exhibited by Goodnow & Jenks.'(1)

The father created the most important aesthetic movement silver made in Boston. The son helped incubate Boston's arts & crafts movement. Both are overlooked and underappreciated today.

This rare pitcher is marked underneath with Lewis Jenks' company mark, 'STERLING/BOSTON' and by the Boston retailer 'CROSBY, MORSE & FOSS. It measures 8.25 inches across the handle and spout by 7.5 inches high, weighs 24.45 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition.

Provenance: Ruth Nutt Collection

Endnote:

  1. First Exhibition of the Arts & Crafts,Copley Hall, Boston, April 5-16, MCCCXCVII, (Boston: Thomas P. Smith Printing, 1897), pp. 10-11.
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