George J. Hunt Matched Pair of Important Arts and Crafts Sterling Candlesticks, Boston, 1906, 1936
This matched pair of columnar candlesticks are stunning. They also have quite a story to tell - the 1906 one was exhibited at the exhibition of the Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston in 1907.
Starting at the top, the octagonal floriform candle holders are attached to bold columns consisting of deep flutes between eight pillars. Each pillar consists of two sides pointed outward, creating reflections in all directions. The bases, midsections, and tops of the columns are ornamented with molded bands. A spreading octagonal platform mimicking the spreading base gives an added dimension to the overall design. The very large base has a large concave area above a reeded area and another concave outer foot. The conscious use of varied surface directions plays delightfully with the surrounding light and reflections.
Engraved on the bases are ornate coats-of-arms above the name ‘SEYMOUR.‘ These two candlesticks come from two commissions of the same design 30 years apart. At some point, the original candlesticks were separated (likely in the estate process), and these two paired. The candlesticks are engraved underneath as follows:
‘GIVEN TO WILLIAM SHURTLEFF INGRAHAM AND GRACE ELLA SEYMOUR HIS WIFE ON THEIR TWENTY FIFTH WEDDING ANNIVERSARY OCTOBER 11- 1906 GIVEN BY HAS & MLS – MLP & MSP – LES – GDS BLEST BE THE TIE THAT BINDS’
and on the other:
‘GEORGE J HUNT OF BOSTON
WROUGHT THIS PAIR OF CANDLESTICKS IN 1936 FOR EDWARD AND ALICE PATTI PEASE INGRAHAM’
George Joseph Hunt was an esteemed silversmith who first trained at the Liverpool Art Institute and then apprenticed in the shop of Joseph Meyer in London. After arriving in Boston, Hunt was named a Craftsman in the Society of Arts & Crafts in Boston and achieved Mastership in 1908.
He is regarded as the preeminent teacher of silversmithing of the Arts and Crafts movement and due to his busy teaching schedule, produced little silver himself. Beginning in 1905, Hunt taught at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, until his retirement in 1942. He also taught at the School of the Worcester Art Museum, Swain School in New Bedford, Minneapolis Summer School of Design, and the Chautauqua Institute in New York while also having a private Metalry School on Chestnut Street in Boston. (1)
George Dudley Seymour wanted a 25th anniversary present for his sister Grace and her husband, William Shurtleff Ingraham. Seymour, a prominent lawyer and Yale alumni, was one of the great antiquarians and collectors of the early 20th century (and would become one of Arthur Stone's best clients).
Seymour had been deeply moved by the first museum exhibition of colonial American silver: American Silver: the Work of Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Silversmiths exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1906. He had been particularly impressed by a pair of circa 1686 candlesticks made in Boston by Jeremiah Dummer, now part of the Garvan Collection at Yale (see details here).
Jeremiah Dummer candlesticks, Boston c. 1686, courtesy Yale University Art Gallery
Through the Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston, Seymour commissioned George Hunt to make a set of four candlesticks based on Dummer's design. Correspondence from Frederick Whiting, secretary of the society, to Seymour that details the design and creation of these candlesticks, an accompanying bowl, and tea service, can be found in the George Seymour papers at Yale.
Much to Seymour's consternation, Dr. R. Jay Jeffries of Boston and his nephew, who jointly owned the Dummer candlesticks, refused to let them be copied or reproduced. A disappointed Seymour was forced to ask Hunt to find a similar set to replicate.
Ultimately, Hunt found a London 1669 candlestick to use as a model. Further choices were made. Bobeche or not? (Either is historically accurate.) What size candlestick do you use? To engrave the arms, they chose Mr. Henry Mitchell who had experience in heraldic engraving.
The four candlesticks were delivered after Thanksgiving 1906, a bit late for the anniversary, but a triumph of design, artisanship, and dedication. As Whiting noted in a letter after examining one of the candlesticks, "The stick seemed to me to be the best piece of work which Mr. Hunt has done and very handsome." (2)
By January 10, Frederick Whiting, the society secretary, was reminding Seymour of Whiting's request to include the four candlesticks in the upcoming 1907 exhibition of the Society of Arts & Crafts. (3) Seymour was happy to oblige and the candlesticks became item number 662 of the show, "Set of 4 silver candlesticks, after old English model/ Designed by Mr. Hunt, executed by Mr. Hunt and W. E. Manchester."
The set of four was split into pairs upon the inheritance by Ingraham's children. Edward and Alice commissioned a pair of matching sticks from Hunt in 1936. It is interesting to note they chose a different candle size (and hence a different socle opening) than George Seymour. This set was once again split by their children and we have this matched pair to offer.
It is extraordinary to find any documentable examples of pieces shown at major exhibitions of the Society of Arts & Crafts. This is the first piece that we have had from the 1907 exhibition and the incredible documentation of their design and creation makes these truly amazing.
Exhibition: Exhibition of the Society of Arts & Crafts, Boston, 1907
Award: Hunt won a Jury Award at the 1907 Exhibition for "workmanship and adaptation of design."
Literature: Exhibition of the Society of Arts & Crafts, (Boston: Heintzemann Press, 1907), p. 39
Provenance: William S. & Grace Ingraham
These rare candlesticks are marked ‘GJH’ in a shield and ‘STERLING.’ They measure 11.25 inches high by 8.25 inches wide at the base and weigh a combined 56.45 troy ounces. Aside from one candle opening being a little larger than the other, the sticks are identical and in excellent antique condition.
Marilee Boyd Meyer, Inspiring Reform, Boston’s Arts & Crafts Movement, (Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Harry N. Abrams), pp. 217-218.
Letter from Frederick Whiting to George Dudley Seymour, December 4, 1906, in the George Dudley Seymour Papers, Box 102 "Silver", Folder 1459 "Silver - Paull, Florence v. 1906, Society of Arts and Crafts 1906-07", Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.
Letter from Frederick Whiting to George Dudley Seymour, January 10, 1907, in the George Dudley Seymour Papers, Box 102 "Silver", Folder 1459 "Silver - Paull, Florence v. 1906, Society of Arts and Crafts 1906-07", Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library.
You may also like
Subscribe to our Newsletter
Sign up to get the latest updates and current musings in our occasional newsletter…