Pitcher, Thomas Fletcher (1787-1866) and Sidney Gardiner (1787-1827)

Object: Pitcher

Manufacturer: Thomas Fletcher (1787–1866)
and Sidney Gardiner (1787–1827)

Materials: silver

Place:  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Date of Creation: 1815 –1820

Winterthur Museum, Delaware, USA

EMu user since 2002

PitcherSizeable pitchers, though rarely made by 18th-Century American silversmiths, became more  prevalent for household use and presentation awards during the 19th Century. Their expansive, mirror-like surfaces, dynamic ornament, and useful purpose added visual interest to dining experiences. This large,  hinged-lid pitcher employs sculpted animal features as its appendages in the form of a dolphin, dog head (possibly the mythical Cerberus), serpent handle, and lion-paw feet, all of which figured importantly in classical antiquity. Here they lend an aggressive muscular stance to the vessel that accords with design  precepts of the era, strongly influenced by antiquities excavated in Italy and Greece.

The makers, Thomas Fletcher and Sidney Gardiner, were partners in America’s premier silversmith firm of the early 1800s. Their fashionable Philadelphia shop drew patrons from all regions of the nation. The firm favored a robust classical taste and in 1816 Fletcher traveled to Paris and London seeking new design inspiration for their shop’s silver.

Fletcher and Gardiner incorporated hand-chased borders into this pitcher in keeping with the vogue for classical architecture and its dependent arts, including silver. This pitcher’s modified vase-shape body on a pedestal base is additionally ornamented with panels of floral and leaf decoration, most of which were hammered directly out of the metal body. In general, such ornament consists of stylized renderings of plants that flourished around the Mediterranean basin, including acanthus, olive, honeysuckle, and lotus. For subsequent presentation pitchers, Fletcher and Gardiner often incorporated bald eagle head handles to reflect their patrons’ desire for patriotic imagery.

Acknowledgements: Winterthur Museum, 1969.0016