This exceptional ewer is one of the rarest and most famous models that came from Kirk's shop. An important piece of early Baltimore silver, this masterpiece features classical repoussé work and a cast S-scroll handle. Of renaissance ewer form, it has wonderful repoussé floral and foliate details around the pedestal base.
Larger, robust repoussé decorates the neck of the ewer with a dramatic shell on each side. The lower half of the main body is decorated with bold classical acanthus leaves rising up from the base. Applied silver wire bands with hatch-marks frame a band of repoussé that includes flowing foliate repoussé against a stippled background. In this band, a reserve on one side is engraved with a family crest of a griffin's head between two wings issuing from a ducal coronet; on the other side, the reserve is engraved with the initial WLS'.
These reserves are bordered with a pair of dolphins on one side and a merman spearing a sea-creature with his trident on the other. The wonderful cast handle is decorated with a foliate thumb-piece. Defining the flaring spout is a stunning male mask with flowing beard.
Successfully incorporating floral, foliate, nautical and figural motifs in a single object attests to the extraordinary skill and imaginative genius of Kirk. A practically identical ewer is in the collection of the Maryland Historical Society.
Bolton's Armory documents that the crest on this ewer was used by the Stone family, matching the 'WLS' initials. A couple branches of that family were prominent in Maryland History, but the individual who owned this ewer, at this point, remains elusive.
The Gilmors were an important Baltimore family, noted for accumulating one of the finest collections of renaissance objects during the early years of the United States. Samuel Kirk's shop had a practice of naming objects after the family that first ordered them and it is believed that a Gilmor was the first to order a ewer in this form.
Jennifer Goldsborough, in Classical Maryland, speculates that possibly the form was based on a piece in the Gilmor's collection of renaissance items. Noted Baltimore silver scholar Mark Letzer believes that only 10 or 15 ewers in this 'Gilmor' style were ever produced by the Kirk shop.
Samuel Kirk was an entrepreneurial silversmith working in Baltimore from the early 19th century. He built a successful business by being a stylistic innovator while keeping an eye on production cost and profit. This style of repoussé work had been out of fashion since the mid 18th century until he reintroduced it about the time this ewer was made. He made the repoussé style so popular that by the end of the 19th century it was commonly referred to as 'Maryland' silver.
This wonderful ewer is marked underneath 'SAMl KIRK' and the rim of the foot is marked with the Baltimore assayer's mark used between 1835 and 1842. Measuring 12.75 inches high and weighing 38.15 troy ounces, this ewer is in excellent antique condition.