Obadiah Rich Antique Silver Classical Kettle, Boston, MA, c. 1840
Exquisite examples of Obadiah Rich silver in the classical taste are very rare, and this is the finest we have the privilege to offer. Both the design and quality of work are superb.
The removable cover features Demeter, Goddess of the Harvest, with food on a plate. She stands atop a plinth on a domed lid decorated with swirling vines between unusual, architectural handles creating the aura of a temple.
At the base of the handles are magnificent representations of faun masks with wings spreading outwards. The round, disk-shaped body is also unusually shaped and decorated with traveling grapevines. This repousséd scene sparkles against a stippled background.
Ornamented with classical garlands terminating in the corners with more faun masks, the upper platform of the base features hairy paw feet at the bottom, which rest on the lowest plinth. A long spigot protrudes from the front and ends with the head of a lion with open jaws bearing teeth.
The upper plinth is attached to the bottom section with two keys and is marked on the back 'O. RICH. BOSTON fine'. It is marked the same up in the interior of the base on the underside of the body.
A matching teapot to this kettle is in the collection of the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia: see here.
The Webster Vase from Gleason's Pictorial September 9, 1853, p. 153.
When this kettle was made c. 1840, Obadiah Rich was Boston's most prominent silversmith. His masterpieces made during this period include the monumental Webster Vase, presented to Daniel Webster by the citizens of Boston (see above and here), and the monumental Cunard Cup (aka the Britannia Cup, aka the Boston Cup) presented to shipping magnate Samuel Cunard, (see here and here).
As the largest and most important piece of the tea service, this kettle is visually stunning. The service would have been custom order, most likely from one of Boston's wealthiest families, many of whom were prominent clients of Rich's. It would have graced a beautiful interior in Boston, such as seen here in Henry Sargent's The Tea Party -note the wonderful silver on the sideboard!)
Provenance: Jay P. Altmayer, Palmetto Hall, Mobile, AL Christie's, January 19, 2017, lot 75 Private Collection
This remarkable kettle measures 10.5 inches across the handles by 12.5 inches high, weighs 90.35 troy ounces, and is marked as above.
Condition: A later replaced burner marked 'STERLING' fits perfectly in its well, and one piece of mother of pearl on the handle has been replaced. This kettle would have had a plinth, either separate or part of a larger piece of furniture, underneath it. A wooden platform with silver plate legs, which Altmayer had made in the 1990s, accompanies the kettle.
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