A rare pair of American silver bottle stands, Myer Myers, New York, circa 1765, each circular with scrolling openwork fret-sawn sides, centering on a solid cartouche monogrammed “SSC,” fitted with turned wooden bases. They are marked on the back of the cartouche“Myers”in a conforming rectangle. The diameter is 5 1/8". The pair sold for $389,000 (est. $250,000/350,000) to Atlanta dealer Deanne Levison in the salesroom. At Christie’s in January 1996, they sold for $299,500.
A large planished silver oval bowl, by Marie Zimmermann, New York, circa 1921, marked on base “Marie Zimmermann—Maker,” 16½" in diameter, 73 oz. 15 dwt., sold on the phone for $16,250. Zimmermann created this or another of this model as a wedding gift for meatpacking heiress Lolita Armour of Chicago and Santa Barbara. The set may have been commissioned by Albert and Adele Herter. The shape was also made by the artist in copper. See The Jewelry and Metalwork of Marie Zimmermann (2011) by Deborah Dependahl Waters, Joseph Cunningham, and Bruce Barnes.
A pair of large American silver sauceboats and stands by Thomas Fletcher, Philadelphia, 1830-35, engraved with a crest “SCP 1877 to ABP 1895” and on the base “Anne R.P. Burroughs 1855/ Sarah C Kennard-1877/ Anne B. Pierce 1895,” marked on the base “T.FLETCHER/ PHILAD,” stands are 11" wide, 82 oz. 5 dwt. The pair was made for the Pierces of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who bought a large group of silver from Fletcher in the 1820s and ’30s. They have been widely exhibited. They sold on the phone to a collector for $62,500 (est. $20,000/30,000). At Sotheby’s in November 1976, just one of these sauceboats sold for $2500 to Elizabeth Feld of Hirschl & Adler. Hirschl & Adler either had the other or found it and sold the pair to Ruth Nutt in 1999.
Pair of large presentation salvers, Samuel Kirk, Baltimore, dated 1845, on cast scroll feet, engraved floral bands enclosing arms and an inscription reading “Presented to William Ogilby, Esq. H. B.M.C. by the Citizens of Charleston, South Carolina, 1845.” Ogilby’s papers are at the South Carolina Historical Society. He wrote about the controversy of the accession of Texas as a slave state. As British consul, he suspected southern politicians of fanning anger against the abolitionist British government and had to deal with the imprisonment of British subjects of color who arrived in South Carolina. In 1845, he requested retirement after 23 years of service. The scale of these salvers, over 150 ounces of silver, conveys the regret with which the people of Charleston saw him leave. They sold in the salesroom for $37,500 (est. $25,000/35,000) to a woman who also bought a punch bowl by John Ewan.
American punch bowl by John Ewan, retailed by Matthew Miller, Charleston, South Carolina, dated 1828 engraved on four sides with a “JM” in a wreath over “1828,” bouquets of rice, tobacco, and cotton plants, male and female figures flanking folky engravings of a stack of cotton bags above the word “Perseverance,” and a spreadwing eagle holding a banner reading Nunc tempest est bibendum (Now is the time to drink). It is marked on the base “J EWAN” in a serrated rectangle and “M Miller” in a serrated rectangle, 9½" in diameter, 30 oz. 10 dwt. It sold for $56,250 (est. $20,000/ 30,000) to the same woman who bought the Ogilby presentation salvers. It is probably linked to what the South called the “Tariff of Abominations,” passed in 1828 to protect northern businesses. The bill reduced the American market for British goods and the Brits reduced their import of American cotton. John Calhoun, Andrew Jackson’s vice president, opposed the tariff.
American silver drinking straw, circa 1800, S-form with clip, top engraved “B Hurd” in script, apparently unmarked,4¾" long, sold on the phone to Stiles Colwill for $2500 (est. $400/800).
An American silver agricultural prize punch bowl, Isaac Hutton, Albany, the engraving signed “G. Fairman del. et. sculp. Albany,” and dated 1809, is engraved on one side with the arms of Albany, the other with the inscription “State Of New York/ 8th March 1809/ By the Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts To George Booth of the County of Dutchess/ This Piece of Plate Is Awarded/ pursuant to an Act of the Legislature passed 8th April 1808/ As A Premium/ for the third best of the Specimens of Woolen Cloth of family/ Manufacture produced from the several Counties in this State/ the present year.” It’s marked “Hutton” on the base and has two pseudo hallmarks of birds. With a diameter of 7¾", it sold to a phone bidder for $40,625 (est. $10,000/15,000). At Christie’s on January 15 and 16, 2004, identified as “Property of a Southern Collector,” it sold for $31,070 to Robert Jackson and Ann Gillooly for Ruth Nutt.
This was cataloged as an American silver bookplate . It depicts the Decatur family on one side and the Decatur coat of arms on the other, engraved by Henry Dawkins, New York, circa 1783. It’s probably not a bookplate but a commemorative token made for the family. It sold for $25,000 (est. $7000/10000) to James Kochan. At Christie’s in 2005, it sold for $38,400 to Jonathan Trace for Ruth Nutt. The portrait of the Decatur family in front of an open window with two ships in the distance is above an inscription “To Mrs. Ann Decatur/ This Design is Inscribed by Her Ob. Humb. Servt. H. Dawkins,” and the reverse is engraved with the Decatur arms and motto and the inscription “The Arms of the Ancient Family of Decatur,” set within a gilt frame and floral matting. The plate measures 3"; the overall frame 6 1/8". According to family tradition, this bookplate passed from Captain Stephen Decatur to his son Commodore Stephen Decatur, who died without issue. The bookplate then passed to Commodore Decatur’s brother, Colonel John Pine Decatur (1786-1832), and then by descent to the consignor in the 2005 sale. The most illustrious member of the Decatur family, Commodore Stephen Decatur, is notable for his naval victories in the Barbary Wars in North Africa, the Quasi-War with France, and the War of 1812. He became the youngest man to reach the rank of captain in the history of the U.S. Navy, and in 1816, he was appointed to the Board of Navy Commissioners in Washington, where he built an impressive Federal residence designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe. Decatur was mortally wounded in a duel in 1820. His Washington residence is now the Decatur House museum. Henry Dawkins emigrated from England to New York after 1750 and became one of America’s most important early engravers. He made the first engraving of the New York state coat-of-arms, and his 1762 engraving of a view of Princeton College is one of the earliest views of that school. He also established himself in Philadelphia. Dawkins also was known for counterfeiting paper money and was imprisoned in White Plains. After he was released he returned to Philadelphia, where he continued work as an engraver, with a considerable trade in bookplates.
An American silver tankard by John Bayly, Philadelphia, circa 1775, engraved with the cipher “CSM” for Christopher and Sarah Marshall and engraved on the handle “PM” for Patience Marshall (their granddaughter), base marked “I. BAYLY” and “IB” in rounded rectangle left of handle on body, 33 oz. 7 7/8" high, sold for $87,500 (est. $20,000/30,000) to Jonathan Trace in the salesroom, underbid by Sotheby’s John Ward on the phone.
An American silver child’s whistle and bells, with the mark of Paul Revere II, circa 1770, with fittings for eight silver bells and coral teething stick, engraved “M.I” in block letters, “Iackson” in script on mouthpiece, marked “PR” in script in rectangle,sold to Tim Martin of S.J. Shrubsole for $21,250 (est. $12,000/18,000). Another whistle by Revere is at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
Sotheby’s, New York City
Photos courtesy Sotheby’s
Ruth Nutt’s collection of silver was the finest and most comprehensive collection of American silver ever to appear at auction. It spanned the 17th century to the present, including masterpieces and rare regional examples, intriguing small pieces such as school prizes, Masonic medals, a policeman’s badge, and such unusual forms in American silver as a bidet and a bone holder for carving a leg of lamb. There was a parade of coffeepots, teapots, tankards, canns, porringers, and pepper pots from the 17th and 18th centuries, a hot water urn, and tureens and sauceboats by Fletcher and Gardiner, Federal silversmiths to the new nation. The only thing missing was Tiffany and mixed metals. Ruth Nutt gave a tankard by Tiffany & Co., titled Son Chow, created for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, to the Seattle Art Museum.
A museum could have bought this well-curated collection to tell the story of the silversmith’s trade in America, but it was never offered in its entirety. Ruth Nutt (1934-2013) gave the Seattle Art Museum more than 40 pieces of American silver along with paintings, furniture, and needlework that had been on long-term loan; the rest was auctioned at Sotheby’s on January 23 and 24. Museums, collectors, and the trade bought 381 of the 422 lots offered in their single-owner silver sale for the Nutts on January 24 for a total of $4,738,789, about midway between the estimate of $3.8/5.8 million figured without buyer’s premium. The sale was 90.3% sold by lot. According to Sotheby’s head of silver John Ward, there are still more than 300 items to be sold; some will be offered next January, and some small items such as spoons may be offered on line so they can be sold one at a time.
The best of the best was offered first. “We wanted to produce a sale that would be a monument to Ruth’s taste and collecting,” said John Ward, who masterminded the sale. Apparently Ruth Nutt wanted others to have as much fun collecting as she did.
“The fact that we could move pieces at good prices to acclaim and enthusiasm gives me hope for the future of the American silver market,” said Ward after the sale. He said he was gratified to see furniture collectors come back into the silver market and new collectors appear in the crowded salesroom.
Ruth Nutt did most of her buying through dealer Jonathan Trace of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Trace was her number one advisor, and he advised her well. She also bought from others, such as Michael Weller of San Francisco, Robert Jackson and Ann Gillooly of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and Hinda Kohn in the early days. She bought Fletcher and Gardiner pieces from Hirschl & Adler. All are noted under provenance in the sale catalog.
“She had a great eye. She liked the unusual,” said Trace after the sale. “She didn’t care who made it; it was the object that mattered; the history and maker were secondary. That is why she did not have a lot of Paul Revere.” Trace said the first thing he sold her was a ladle at the Kent Antiques Show in the late 1960s. “I was a kid,” he said.
The sale brought new energy to the marketplace for American silver, but because so much was offered at one time and so many silver collectors have died in recent years, prices were generally reasonable, some just a fraction of what Ruth Nutt paid.
Works of outstanding quality, rarity, and condition—the masterpieces—brought a premium. Some regional silver from South Carolina, Wilmington, Delaware, and Albany, New York, sold well above estimates. Church silver, once thought rare and out of reach, is now more common because so much has come on the market, and some by the earliest makers failed to sell. A pair of American beakers by Boston’s Jacob Hurd, circa 1737, the gift of Theophilus Burill Esq. to the first Church of Christ in Lynn, Massachusetts, estimated at $80,000/120,000, failed to get a bid. In June 1992 at Sotheby’s, they sold for $82,500 to Trace.
The two top lots in the sale—a pair of silver bottle stands made in New York by Myer Myers, circa 1765 (est. $250,000/ 350,000) and a two-handled cup by Charles Le Roux made in New York, circa 1720 (est. $300,000/500,000)—each sold for $389,000. They were bought by two different longtime private collectors.
Museums bought the next two on the top-ten list. A rare War of 1812 eagle-head sword by Fletcher and Gardiner, made in Philadelphia and dated 1828, sold for $257,000 (est. $150,000/250,000) to the Winterthur Museum, underbid in the salesroom by dealer James Kochan of Catskill, New York, bidding for a client. A large sugar box and matching tea caddy by Simeon Soumaine, made in New York, circa 1720, sold for $221,000 (est. $200,000/300,000) to Tim Martin of S.J. Shrubsole, bidding for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “One of the things that became apparent was a lot of people had knowledge of Ruth Nutt’s intention to leave the sugar box and tea caddy to the Met, and nobody bid on it. It was an amazing buy,” said Martin after the sale.
Works of the highest merit were not overlooked. A pair of silver waiters by Simeon Soumaine, New York, 1738-40, sold for a $161,000 (est. $100,000/150,000) to Deanne Levison for collectors. They each have engraved mirror ciphers “EC”within a circle for Elizabeth Harris Cruger. Trace bought one at auction for $81,250 at Sotheby’s in January 2002 and bought the other privately to unite two masterpieces. The same buyer got a tiny dram cup by John Coney, Boston, circa 1680, for $75,000 (est. $15,000/25,000). It fetched $90,500 when it last sold in January 2000. A spoon tray engraved with a cipher, probably that of Ann and John Bartram, a Philadelphia naturalist, sold to dealer James Kilvington of Greenville, Delaware, for $50,000 (est. $20,000/30,000), underbid by Deanne Levison. At Christie’s in January 1996, it sold for $48,300.
Two pieces of historic Philadelphia silver expected to be among the top ten did not sell. There was no bidding on a large salver by Richard Humphreys, made in 1775 for Philadelphia Quaker merchant George Emlen, that had sold at Sotheby’s in New York in January 1997 for $299,500 (est. $250,000/350,000), and there was not a bid for a Philadelphia silver salver on feet by Henry Pratt (est. $200,000/300,000) that sold at Christie’s in January 1998 for $453,500 when it was the most expensive piece of American silver. At that sale, Jonathan Trace was bidding against Philadelphia Museum of Art curator Jack Lindsey, who wanted it for his exhibition Worldly Goods in 1999. Ruth Nutt lent it to the exhibition. It is a rare form, but others of that form have turned up since.
Some rarities seemed reasonable. Winterthur bought an octagonal sugar bowl by Joseph Richardson Sr. for $81,250 (est. $70,000/100,000). It is closely related to two other octagonal sugar bowls by Richardson. One made for Oswald and Lydia Peel sold at Christie’s, New York, January 21, 2000, for $310,500. Another made for Samuel Emlen from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Walter M. Jeffords sold at Sotheby’s on October 29, 2004, for $265,000.
There was some keen competition for other pieces of Philadelphia silver. A baluster-form tankard by John Bayly, made in Philadelphia, circa 1775, with the “CSM” cipher for Christopher and Sarah Marshall and “PM” engraved on the handle for their granddaughter, sold for $87,500 (est. $20,000/30,000) to dealer Jonathan Trace for a collector, underbid by John Ward on the phone. Other baluster-shaped tankards brought substantially less. The cover lot, a baluster-form tankard with mid-band by Joseph Richardson Sr., sold on the phone to John Ward, underbid by Kevin Tierney, for $22,500 (est. $12,000/18,000), and still another baluster-form tankard with a mid-band, made circa 1780 by Andrew Underhill in New York, sold to Kevin Tierney on the phone for $20,000 (est. $10,000/15,000). Rarity, quality, and history make the difference.
Some other special pieces of American silver sold to mysterious phone bidders. One bidder on the phone with Sotheby’s Tierney paid $93,750 (est. $40,000/60,000) for a coffeepot made by New York silversmith Myer Myers in 1760, without a special family history. A coffeepot made in 1784 by Wilmington silversmith Bancroft Woodcock of comparable quality sold for $62,500 (est. $50,000/80,000) to dealer James Kilvington of Greenville, Delaware, demonstrating that some of the highest quality silver was made outside the big cities of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. A punch bowl made in Albany by Isaac Hutton, dated 1809, and presented to the maker of the finest woolen cloth, sold for $40,625 (est. $10,000/15,000). In January 2004 at Christie’s, it sold for $31,070.
Silver by Fletcher and Gardiner sold well over estimates but well under what Ruth Nutt had paid for them. The hot water urn that Ruth Nutt had lent to the Fletcher and Gardiner 2007-08 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Winterthur sold for $56,250 (est. $12,000/18,000). A tureen and cover Fletcher and Gardiner engraved with Daniel Webster’s coat of arms went to the same phone bidder for $59,375 (est. $30,000/50,000). There was a lot of bidding in the salesroom and on the phones for a pair of silver sauceboats and stands, also in the Fletcher and Gardiner exhibition, and they went to a collector on the phone for $62,500 (est. $20,000/30,000).
Stiles Colwill, the designer, scholar, and cheerleader for all things made or used in Baltimore, did his bidding from a skybox. “I was bidding for so many clients I needed a desk to spread out my papers, and Sotheby’s gave me one in a skybox where I could be on my phone with clients and call in my bids,” said Colwill in the salesroom after the sale.
Colwill bought 17 lots. “I bought a Fletcher and Gardiner presentation vase made for a Philadelphia wine merchant for $2813; it was a bargain,” he said. Most of what Colwill bought had a Baltimore history, and he said some was for clients, some for himself, and some for Homewood, a historic house on the Johns Hopkins University campus. “Ruth Nutt and I used to stand in line together for the preview of the Winter Show, and we both would make a beeline to Jonathan Trace’s booth to see what he had for us,” he said. A pair of silver candle snuffers made by John Walraven in Baltimore, circa 1785, that Ruth Nutt bought from Trace at the Winter Show cost Colwill $6250 (est. $1500/2500). Another pair of snuffers by Samuel Kirk was his for $3438 (est. $800/1200). They had the crest of Gustav Lurman of “Farmlands,” an important patron of Kirk. A silver salver by Charles Boehme, Baltimore, 1795-1800, cost him $6250 (est. $4000/6000), a silver tea caddy by Thomas Warner, Baltimore, was his for $7500 (est. $1200/1500), a covered jug by Thomas and Andrew Warner cost him $3438 (est. $2000/3000), and a pair of silver goblets by Thomas Warner was his for $2813 (est. $700/1000). A silver breakfast teapot made by Standish Barry in Baltimore, 1790-95, for Governor Charles Carnan Ridgely (1760-1829) of Hampton, then the largest private house in America, was Colwill’s for $10,000 (est. $3000/5000); he said it will go to Homewood. He paid $12,500 (est. $3000/5000) for a silver salver by Harvey Lewis of Philadelphia, circa 1815, because it has the arms of the Carroll family of Maryland, and it will also go to Homewood, the house that Charles Carroll of Carrollton offered as a wedding gift to his son in 1800.
For a client Colwill bought a silver tea urn with large lion mask handles for $17,500 (est. $10,000/15,000). Colwill went for the unusual. He bought a silver bidet in its mahogany stand made by Bailey & Kitchen in Philadelphia, circa 1835, for $4375 (est. $5000/8000) and for a client paid $2500 (est. $400/800) for a silver straw, the top engraved “B Hurd” in script but unmarked.
He bought a silver wine siphon for $5938 (est. $1200/1500), outbidding James Kilvington. American wine siphons are rare. This one, though unmarked, was said to have been made in either Philadelphia or New York. Colwill got a rare American silver wax jack made by Vincent Laforme and retailed by Crosby & Foss, Boston, and dated 1879 for $4063. He said he bought a lot of wine labels for whiskey, wine, and brandy by William Ball Jr. and one for Madeira by Samuel Kirk, made in Baltimore 1840-50, for a client and paid only $750 (est. $800/1200) for them, and in the lot were two openwork labels for applejack and sherry. He bought a New York silver wine coaster by William Thomson, circa 1815, for $1250 (est. $1500/2500), saying it was under the money!
That is how a seasoned collector approached what he called a chance in a lifetime. Larry Berkovits, a coin dealer from Long Island who is passionate about silver, thought this would be a good time to add to his collection that he began about eight years ago. He bought two dozen lots and said he was sorry he did not buy more. He spent a long time at the presale exhibition and bought carefully when he thought the prices were reasonable. He got a Philadelphia sugar bowl by John David, circa 1780, for $3125 (est. $5000/7000) and a waste bowl by John David, circa 1785, for just $875 (est. $1200/1500). A drum-shaped teapot by Abraham DuBois, Philadelphia, was his for $5313 (est. $5000/7000); a covered cann by Daniel Van Voorhis cost him $1750 (est. $2000/3000). A saucepan by Daniel Henchman, Boston, circa 1760, was his for $4375 (est. $5000/7000). A New York silver cup by Henricus Boelen II sold for $2375 (est. $3000/5000). He said he really likes early silver and paid $4375 (est. $3000/5000) for a cann by William Cowell, Jr. Boston, circa 1745, and $13,750 for a teapot by Samuel Edwards, Boston, circa 1760 (est. $15,000/$25,000). “The engraving is just wonderful,” he said. A silver cann by Samuel Burrill, Boston, circa 1730, cost him $2500 (est. $1500/2000); Jonathan Trace was the underbidder. Berkovits was often Trace’s underbidder. Berkovits’s earliest piece was a porringer by Henricus Boelen I, New York, circa 1690, and he paid $6250 for it (est. $4000/6000). “I may become a dealer one day,” he said.
Most of the porringers in the sale went to Tim Martin of S.J. Shrubsole, who was the largest single buyer, buying for clients and for stock. Ruth Nutt was never his client. When asked if he bought a dozen porringers so he could serve shrimp cocktail in them at a dinner for 12, as one Park Avenue matron did, he said, “No, it was just an opportunity to buy some first-rate silver.”
Martin said he thought there was just too much silver offered for a small and quiet market. “I do not know if it was brave or foolish, but it worked. The low buy-in rate, less than ten percent, the large number of people in the room, and a lot of interest in a lovely collection was good to see.”
In addition to buying for museums that will announce their purchases in time, Martin considers one of his best buys a Peter Van Dyck, New York, circa 1720, 16" long basting spoon. It sold together with a gold ring for $6875 (est. $6000/8000). Martin bought it for stock. He said a Thomas Savage porringer was another favorite. “It was beat up in a good way, used and never repaired,” he said. He bought it for $10,000 (est. $3000/5000). He thought a Samuel Vernon porringer was well worth $11,875 (est. $5000/7000). Trace had bought it for Ruth Nutt at the Eddy Nicholson sale at Christie’s in 1995 for $17,250. A two-handled cup by Vernon that descended in the Greene family of Rhode Island cost him $34,375. When it sold to Trace at Christie’s in June 1991, it cost $55,000 (est. $12,000/18,000). Martin thought he stole the Philip Syng, Jr. spout cup at $20,000 (est. $20,000/30,000). The initials are those of Thomas Newbold and Edith Coate; they married in 1724.
The trade and collectors left this sale happy. The room was full; no one left until the sale was over. Everyone seemed to have a list of lots to bid on, and there was plenty to go around. While Shrubsole bought most of the porringers, Trace bought most of the pepper pots. When asked why he bought so many pepper pots, Trace said, “Because I like American silver made before 1750; I like that early form.”
For more information, contact Sotheby’s (212) 606-7160, Web site (www.sothebys.com)
Thomas Fletcher, Philadelphia, hot water urn, 1830-35, with grapevine handles and upper decoration, the lower body with palm and acanthus, the spigot topped with a bird, monogrammed on back “JHS,” marked on the base rim and up under the base “T. Fletcher/ PHILA,” stamped on base “OLD SILVER.” It was in the Fletcher and Gardiner exhibition 2007-08 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Winterthur. With a Hirschl & Adler provenance, it sold for $56,250 (est. $12,000/18,000).
An American gold-mounted War of 1812 eagle-pommel presentation sword, Fletcher and Gardiner, Philadelphia, dated 1828, 32½" long, sold for $257,000 (est. $150,00/250,000) to Ann Wagner, Winterthur curator of metals and coauthor with Donald Fennimore of the 2007 book Silversmiths to the Nation: Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner 1808-1842. The underbidder was dealer James Kochan in the salesroom who said he was bidding for a client. The presentation inscription: “Presented By The State Of Maryland To/ Lieut. Henry C. Ballard, March 1828 as the/ reward of Patriotism and Valor.” It is one of three swords the state of Maryland ordered from Fletcher and Gardiner for heroes of the War of 1812.
Coffeepot by Myer Myers, New York, 1760, pear form with elaborate cast spout, the side slightly later engraved with small foliate monogram “SE,” marked “Myers” in script twice on bottom, 10 7/8", weighing 32 oz. 10 dwt., with a Jonathan Trace provenance, sold on the phone for $93,750 (est. $40,000/60,000).
A pair of American silver waiters, Simeon Soumaine, New York, 1738-40, with molded piecrust rim, center engraved with foliate mirror cipher “EC” within a circle, on three scroll legs with hoofed feet, marked in center of bases “SS” in rectangle,5 7/8" diameter, each is 17 oz. 5 dwt. They sold for $161,000 (est. $100,000/150,000) to Atlanta dealer Deanne Levison. The cipher is that of Elizabeth Harris Cruger (1712-1760), who married Henry Cruger (1707-80) in Legnaum, Jamaica in 1736. They returned from Jamaica to New York in 1738 and perhaps ordered silver from Simeon Soumaine then or in 1744 when Henry inherited his father’s estate. Another item belonging to the Crugers, and one of the most famous pieces of American silver, is the covered sugar bowl by Soumaine engraved with the same cipher, now in the Garvan Collection at Yale University Art Gallery. The cipher is taken from Colonel William Parsons’s
A rare American silver two-handled cup and cover, Charles Le Roux, New York, circa 1720, the lower body and cover with applied strapwork, the top of one handle engraved with block initials “A/J*M,” both sides with a contemporary crest and a coat-of-arms in a baroque cartouche within a circle, marked to left of one handle “CLR” conjoined in oval, 10¼" high, 45 oz. 10 dwt., sold for $389,000 (est. $300,000/500,000) to a New York collector in the salesroom. It was made for James and Mary Alexander, who married in 1721. James was a merchant, attorney, and government official; Mary Alexander looked after the merchant business after her husband’s early death. She died in 1760. Only a handful of Colonial American silver “grace cups” survive. A similar two-handled cup by Charles Le Roux, with the cipher probably of Frederick de Peyster, is in the Mabel Brady Garvan Collection at Yale University. It last sold at Sloan’s & Kenyon in Bethesda, Maryland, on May 31, 2003, for $174,000.
Originally published in the April 2015 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2015 Maine Antique Digest