Samuel Kirk Silver 'Gilmor' Type Massive Ewer, Baltimore, c. 1840
This important piece of early Baltimore silver features bold classical repoussé work and a cast figural handle. Of renaissance ewer form it has wonderful repoussé details of classical acanthus leaves around the base and floral and foliate decoration around the mid section and top. The extraordinary handle is cast with a bird eating berries and a hound on top. This handle is identical to a handle used on a ewer now in the collection of the High Museum in Atlanta. The spout is detailed with an exceptional classical mask.
Measuring 17.5 inches high and weighing 57.5 troy ounces, this ewer is in excellent antique condition.
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. The only other known surviving example is at the Maryland Historical Society. That one does not have this elaborate cast handle.
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.
Provenance: By descent in the family of Douglas Thomas, noted Baltimore industrialist.
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