Sterling gifts that keep on giving

July 13, 2012 at 9:18 am 1 comment

It has been a great pleasure recently to install a group of silver objects that have been donated to the Museum’s decorative arts collection by three generous individuals.Image

In 2009, James Chervenak, in the name of the Chervenak-Nunnalle Foundation, gave the Museum a terrific group of Victorian silver pieces, all of them filling gaps in the silver holdings which I have been building over the past three decades.  Two of these pieces, a marvelous Philadelphia “Chinoiserie” teapot from the 1850s and a wildly decorated London teapot from 1825, are in the current exhibition The Teapot in the Vivienne and Stanley H. Katz Gallery.

Just last year, in 2011, Kathy Field Malavasic donated a terrific group of Victorian silver in memory of her mother, Doris Coles Field.  One of these, an exotic American tea kettle-on-stand in the Japanese style from 1882, has gone into the teapot exhibition; the rest of the pieces have been placed in the period rooms on the first floor of the Ballantine House.  A Japanese style bell has been put next to Mrs. Ballantine’s place in the dining room, with a great covered rococo water pitcher nearby. That pitcher, dated 1844, was made for the Rhinelander family in New York, and is a superb early document of high rococo style as it first appeared in American silver.  In the library, there is a mixed-metal (copper and silver) ornamental tray from the 1880s on the center table — the first piece of its type in our collection.  On the writing table by the front windows is a truly delicious silver desk blotter and letter rack, made by Tiffany & Co. in about 1900 — for a yacht called the “Shamrock.”  Imagine needing such fancy stuff on your boat!  In the parlor, there’s a remarkable cast “St. Mark’s” spoon, clearly given to someone on his or her 50th birthday in 1891. Apostle spoons of this caliber are very rare, and this is a very special example.

The spoon sits on our tea table by a splendidly ornate tea and coffee set with a local history, given by William F. Allen in 2009. The teaset is dated 1885, and was given to the donor’s ancestor, who lived in South Orange, New Jersey, to celebrate his influence in establishing the time zones in America, something that greatly aided the booming railroads across the nation.  Remember, when you rode in a stagecoach, the time changes across the country didn’t matter. Trains changed all that forever.

-By Ulysses Grant Dietz, Chief Curator

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