This is a rare and stunning centerpiece bowl made by the firm of Thibault & Brothers who were working from 1820-35.
The large base has a stepped, circular foot bordered with an applied band of large beads between rows of fine beading. This banding is repeated at the top of the column where the base attaches to the bowl.
Applied around the flaring rim is a spectacular display of oak branches and leaves.
The presentation inscription on the side of the bulbous body reads as follows:
Presented by William Rufus Blake to S.V. Solomon Esq. author of the PRIZE ADDRESS Spoken at the opening of the Walnut St. Theatre Philadelphia, January 1st, 1829.
Still operating today, the Walnut Street Theatre is the oldest continuously running theatre in America.
William Rufus Blake (1802-1863) was a stage actor and theatre manager who was 'The highest paid actor on the American stage at the height of his career'. He managed many theaters including the Tremont Theatre in Boston and the Walnut Theatre in Philadelphia.1
In 1829, 'William Blake was manager and proprietor...While the name of this theatre varied during previous seasons, ... it was known from 1829 on simply as the "Walnut"... A prize of $100 had been offered for a poetical address to be spoken at the opening of the theatre.'.2
Delivered at the opening of the Walnut Street Theatre, Jan. 1st, 1829, written by Mr. Solomon, of Baltimore:
The polished mirror to the careful gaze, Each latent blemish, undisguis'd betrays, E'en so the stage, to nature ever true, Presents (ungrateful task) each fault to view Holds for the public eye a picture here, Of fashion' freaks, or folly's wild career. The graceless portrait all in turn disown, In vain - our world doth but reflect your own; And when you here the ungracious figure scan, Blame not the mirror, but reform the man. But as we thus essay, with scenic art, To improve the manners and correct the heart With chastening kindness hold your faults to view, In turn our errors are rebuked by you. We ask you no fictitious praise to lend, The candid critic is the Drama's friend; And though your plaudits be our best reward, Your honest censure claims our just reward. Our scenes to suit each varied taste designed, Refine the rude, or charm the polish'd mind; While at the mimic show the thoughtless stare, A noble soul will find reflection there, Scan the design with intellectual eye, And moral beauty in the scene descry. The deathless heroes of the Drama here, Invok'd by art, resume their high career. Still whether fortune's frown or smile await, Great in their virtues, in their vices great; Now wronged Othello loves and hates by turns, Now fierce revenge in Zanga's bosom burns, And now our walls in pealing echoes ring, To the mad fury of the Grecian King. Ah! let not scenes like these confine their power, To triumphs transient as the passing hour; But let us hope that when the spell is o'er, The soul awakened to one virtue more, Shall yield the generous tribute of a sigh, To those who greatly dare - who nobly die! Oft shall the callous heart, misfortune's foe, Too cold to feel for pangs of real woe, Melt at the tragic scene and fiction's tale Subdue the breast where truth could ne'er prevail. Such are the magic triumphs of the Stage, Where floats the moral banner of the age! Oh! may the standard that to-night we raise, Rally the muses as in earlier days; And lure from envy's self half willing praise, The genuine Drama re-assume her part - And hold her just dominion o'er the heart. Here bid her Shakespeare's genius unconfined, Range throughout worlds as boundless as his mind, Nor cease her efforts till beneath her reign, Mankind submissive wear bright virtue's chain.3
This stunning and large centerpiece or punch bowl is marked nine times underneath 'THIBAULT & BROTHERS/ PHILAD'. It measures 12 inches in diameter by 8.75 inches high, weighs 55.35 troy ounces and is in excellent antique condition.