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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

John Coney
American, 1655/56 - 1722

6 15/16 x 5 1/16 x 8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Bayou Bend Collection
Gift of Miss Ima Hogg

Arts of North America

Silver and gold, of intrinsic and symbolic value, have always been highly esteemed. Because the American colonies lacked patron-aristocrats, the earliest manifestations of style occurred not in painting or sculpture but in the decorative arts. The silversmith, more than any other artisan, was keenly aware of the latest stylistic developments through the English-produced vessels he imported to sell alongside those of his own manufacture.

John Coney was the first in this country to have fabricated several forms, including the inkstand, fork, sugar box, chafing dish, monteith, and chocolate pot. He was equally adept as an engraver, executing the copper plates for Massachusetts and New Hampshire paper currency. Coney’s known work in the Mannerist and Baroque aesthetics establishes him as the most accomplished and versatile of all colonial silversmiths.

This tankard is a consummate American expression of early Baroque silver. The vessel was made for John Foster, a prosperous Boston merchant and prominent official with sophisticated taste and lofty aspirations. In 1692 he erected an extraordinary house that introduced New Englanders to the Italian Renaissance style. Foster’s tankard, like his mansion, is one of the most eloquent statements of style in early New England.