William Adams Monumental Antique Coin Silver Urn, NYC, NY, c. 1840s
American silver objects of this size from this period are exceedingly rare.
The domed cover is decorated with repousséd foliage and has a cast and applied handle of leaves and a flower. Removable from its original plinth, the urn is decorated with repousséd, draped swags of flowers and clusters of berries hanging downwards and bold acanthus leaves rising from the base. The handles are extraordinary with their c-scroll design and putti bacchanals holding bunches of grapes. The classical plinth unscrews from the urn with a bayonet fitting and is attached to its original black marble base via an iron screw.
Without the lid, this magnificent urn would make a stunning vase.
Once owned by Andy Warhol, it was part of 'The Andy Warhol Collection' sale at Sotheby's. Warhol collected "to get new and great ideas" and could often be seen shopping at the the 26th Street flea market on a Saturday morning during the 1980s. (1) He may have purchased this during one of those visits and it is fun to speculate what "great ideas" it may have inspired.
William Adams was a highly important and talented New York maker working from 1829-61. His most famous pieces were the ceremonial mace for the United States House of Representatives (see), still in use today, and the Henry Clay Vase, awarded by the "Gold and Silver Artizans" (sic) of New York City. He showed successfully at the American Institute winning awards and commendation. A politically active Whig, Adams served as a city alderman, assistant alderman, and as a commissioner of repairs and supplies. (2)
The 1860 US industrial census shows him, late in his career, in partnership with Edmund Kidney. They employed 14 males with a one horsepower steam engine. With $20,000.00 in capital, they had 9000 troy ounces of silver and 50 tons of coal on hand.
This monumental vase is marked twice on the plinth 'W.ADAMS/ NEW-YORK' and measures 23 inches high. The silver weighs 123.05 troy ounces and is in very good antique condition, although an original inscription has been removed at some point in its history.
Christie's, New York, January 22, 1983, lot 409.
The Andy Warhol Collection,
The Victor Niederhoffer Collection.
"Flea Market Where Andy Warhol Shopped Has Sold Its Last Collectible" in The New York Times, December 30, 2019, see here.
Deborah Waters, ed., Elegant Plate: Three Centuries pf Precious Metals in New York City, (New York: City Museum of New York, 2000), p. 262.
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