Collection Online

Ewer, 1891-1902

Manufacturer: Tiffany & Company, American (New York, New York), active 1837-present

Medium: Silver

21 5/8 x 10 5/8 x 7 1/4 in. (54.9 x 27 x 18.4 cm)

Credit Line: Gift of the Decorative Arts Trust

Object Number: 2001.2.2

Not on view

(sale) Christie's, New York, New York, lot 11, Jan. 27, 1996; (sale) Christie's, New York, New York, lot 249, #11 in cat., Jan. 19, 2001

American silver design and craftsmanship reached its zenith at the end of the 19th century in the workshops of Tiffany & Co. Originally established as a fancy goods retailer in New York City in 1837, the firm began to manufacture silver in 1851, and eventually became the largest producer of silver in America, selling pieces both here and abroad.

 

These imposing ewers were made between 1891 and 1902, in what the Tiffany plant journal called a Roman design, which was introduced about 1882. Their form and decoration are based on a 16th-century northern European mannerist interpretation of classical antiquity.

 

The decoration is a bacchanalian scene associated with wine. Panels chased in high relief around the body of the ewers show putti engaging in various types of revelry: playing instruments, dancing, and drinking from a goblet. A separately cast reclining putto holding a bunch of grapes to his lips is fixed at the apex of each handle, and trailing grapevines are applied to the base and body of the pieces.

While used for serving wine in a ceremonial manner at a grand function, ewers of this monumental size (nearly twenty-two inches in height with a capacity of nine pints) and elaborate decoration were displayed on a sideboard or used to pour at table. They provided dramatic visual evidence of the wealth, social standing, and aesthetic sophistication of the owner. Their status as a luxury item is borne out by a plant ledger entry of 1895, which indicates that a single “pitcher Roman large” weighing 96.5 troy ounces of sterling silver cost $400 to produce.1

1.Silver Manufacturing Ledger entry 7082 of September 5, 1895, Tiffany & Company Archives, Parsippany, New Jersey.