Samuel Kirk Early and Extremely Fine 'Etruscan' Pattern 11 oz. Silver Repoussé Pitcher or Ewer, c. 1835-43
This exceptional pitcher is an early and wonderful example of Kirk's repoussé silver. Of bulbous form with a long pouring spout and scroll handle, it features outstanding landscape decoration of classical and exotic origins. Samuel Kirk created this style, which would later become known as 'Maryland Silver'. In a remarkable state of preservation, this piece retains nearly all its original detail; it was entirely raised by hand except for an applied drawn band along the rim and foot.
On one side there are scenes of Asian inspiration with a pagoda and other romantic buildings with a large willow tree, coconut palm, other exotic flora and one female figure on a bridge waving to another figure in a boat. The other side is western in inspiration with a scene of a cottage with a thatched roof near a castle turret ruin. A plank bridge, with a mother and child on it, connect to a scene of Greco-Roman ruins with a tree growing through them behind a farmer with a rake. A body of water flows through the design and two of these scenes float like islands on water. Floral and foliate repoussé work adorn the spout.
Classical design contains these exotic scenes. The long pouring spout is derived from classical antecedents. Acanthus leaf designs can be found at the base of the body and neck. The handle is covered with acanthus leaves (as are the areas of the body where it attaches) and features a bold female classical mask just below the thumb rest. Kirk owned a copy of N. L. Cottingham's The Smith and Founders Director (London, c.1824) where many of the classical motifs and forms he used can be found. (See Classical Maryland, pp. 141-173.)
Winterthur Museum owns a tea set of comparable age, decoration and quality which is fully illustrated and discussed in American Silver at Winterthur by Ian Quimby, pp. 374-6. Examples can also be found in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art (See Silver in Maryland by Jennifer Goldsborough, published by the Museum and Library of Maryland History and the Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore, 1983.) and the Maryland Historical Society (see Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Silver at the Maryland Historical Society).
Both the Winterthur tea set and our pitcher bear the same marks: 'S.KIRK', 'S.K.' and '11 OZ' all in cartouches and the Maryland seal and the letter 'F', both struck incuse and applied at the Baltimore Assay Office. Quimby chooses to date the Winterthur set to 1828 using the traditional dating system developed by Pleasants and Still in their 1930 work, Maryland Silversmiths 1715-1830. We choose to use the dating system proposed by Patrick Duggan in "Marks on Baltimore Silver 1814-1860: An Exploration", an essay in Silver in Maryland that is based on discoveries of archival material from the Baltimore Assay Office made after Maryland Silversmiths was published in 1930.
This stunning pitcher measures 10.25 inches high, weighs 31.85 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition, with slight unevenness in the foot (visible in the photos) and minor imperfections from use. It is monogrammed 'EAR' in a beautiful foliate script style in a cartouche between scenes under the spout.
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