19 Nov
Mon / 2018

Inside the MFAH
A Feast for the Eyes! Beautiful Tableware from Bayou Bend & Rienzi

Happy Thanksgiving! Traditions for the holiday vary from family to family, but just about all Thanksgiving celebrations revolve around food. You might even use special tableware, like fine china or silverware, to mark the Thanksgiving meal as a special occasion.

The collections of Bayou Bend and Rienzi, the two MFAH house museums located in River Oaks, include many examples of tableware special to houses and families of the past. Read on to learn more about a few of the most intriguing objects made to serve special meals—and be sure to save room for dessert!

Now Serving

William Cripps, Epergne, 1754, silver, the Rienzi Collection
William Cripps, Epergne, 1754, silver
Location: Beck Building, MFAH main campus

The popular style of formal dining in 18th-century England required all the dishes in a course to be placed on the table simultaneously. A new, versatile object, called an epergne, functioned as both centerpiece and a way to serve several dishes at once, allowing for a more intimate and informal dining experience without the need of servants. This example from the Rienzi Collection, done in the elaborate Rococo style, is especially intricate.

Gorham Manufacturing Company, Berry Spoon, c. 1868–75, silver and silver gilding, the Bayou Bend Collection
Gorham Manufacturing Company, Berry Spoon, c. 1868–75, silver and silver gilding
Location: Bayou Bend

As America’s middle class grew in the middle of the 19th century, so did the demand for luxurious goods like the extravagant silver designs of the Gorham Manufacturing Company. A handsome whippet sits on the end of this silver spoon made specially to scoop berries—a great choice for cranberry sauce!

Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, Dinner Plate from the “Empress Catherine” Service, 1778, soft-paste porcelain, the Rienzi Collection
Sèvres Porcelain Manufactory, Dinner Plate from the “Empress Catherine” Service, 1778, soft-paste porcelain
Location: Rienzi

In 1776, Empress Catherine the Great of Russia commissioned an 800-piece service, or set of tableware, with a unique, turquoise-blue ground color and decorations inspired by Greek and Roman art. Look closely at this dinner plate from the Empress Catherine service to see a few mythological stories, such as Hercules at the Olympics.

J. E. Caldwell & Co., Sauceboat, 1860–75, silver, the Bayou Bend Collection
J. E. Caldwell & Co., Sauceboat, 1860–75, silver
Location: Bayou Bend

What’s a Thanksgiving turkey without gravy? This type of dish was made just for sauces, with an elegant, curving design and a handle topped by a Renaissance mask. The design speaks to mid-19th-century American trends for technological innovations and taste for historical styles.

Drink Up!

Worcester Porcelain Manufactory, Punch Pot and Cover, c. 1765, soft-paste porcelain, the Rienzi Collection
Worcester Porcelain Manufactory, Punch Pot and Cover, c. 1765, soft-paste porcelain
Location: Rienzi

Twice the size of a teapot, this colorful vessel was used to serve alcoholic punch. A drink meant to be shared, punch was enjoyed by all classes in England—perfect for a celebration.

Just for Desserts

Possibly Whiting Manufacturing Company, Ice Cream Knife, 1875–81, silver and silver gilding, the Bayou Bend Collection
Possibly Whiting Manufacturing Company, Ice Cream Knife, 1875–81, silver and silver gilding
Location: Bayou Bend

Pie à la mode is a classic Thanksgiving dessert now, but ice cream was relatively rare in America until better transportation and technology allowed for wider enjoyment of the dessert later in the 19th century. This ice cream knife, featuring engraved designs and an intricate handle with a pheasant perched at the end, would have made the dish an extra-special treat.

Bow Porcelain Factory, Sweetmeat Stand, c. 1760, soft-paste porcelain, the Rienzi Collection
Bow Porcelain Factory, Sweetmeat Stand, c. 1760, soft-paste porcelain
Location: Rienzi, in the exhibition
 The Connoisseur’s Eye: New Perspectives on Ceramics in the Rienzi Collection 

England’s Bow Porcelain Factory created more affordable porcelain goods for wide distribution. This colorful stand would have been used for “sweetmeats,” or candies and other sweet bites, or perhaps pickled finger foods.

Bon appétit!

Recent Posts

Post Archives

Tag Cloud

17th-century 18thc 18th-century 1960s 1970s 19th-century 20th-century 35mm 5womenartists abstract abstraction activities activity africa african-art a-history-of-photography akan america american american-art ancient and angelica-kauffmann animals animation anna-atkins antiquities architecture archive armchair-travel art art-books artist artists art-of-the-islamic-worlds arts-of-india azaleas bayou bayou-bend bayou-bend-christmas-village bend bestowing-beauty biblical biography black book british british-arrows british-art broadways-amazing-mastersons buffalo-bayou-park-cistern camp campus campus-redevelopment cannes carroll-sterling-masterson chair chef chinese-art christmas christmas-fun cinema cisternrain civil-rights classes classic classic-films cocktail coffee collection color colors-of-the-oasis community concrete conservation contemporary-art contemporary-arts-museum-houston contemporary-film contesting-modernity countess create cullen-sculpture-garden culture curator curators-picks dance decorative-arts degas degas-a-new-vision design digital discussion diversity documentary documents dont-blink-robert-frank drama drawings dutch-art electronic elizabeth-i england english e-records europe exhibition exhibitions eye-on-houston family family-programs fashion fashion-fusion feast festival fiber-arts field film films flowers food france francis-bacon free french french-art fun future futuremfah gainsborough galleries gallery gallery-interpretation garden gardening garden-paradise gardens george-iii glassell glassell-school-of-art google-art-project google-arts-and-culture habsburg-splendor-masterpieces-from-viennas-imperial-collections halloween happyhour happy-new-year harris-masterson-iii henry-viii hirsch-library history history-book-club holiday holiday-fun hollywood home homemfah homeso-different-so-appealing houston howe hurricane-harvey icaa ikat ima-hogg impressionism indian-art instagram interactive ipads islamic italian japanese-art jazz john-biggers joshua-reynolds kenwood kids king kodak kusama latin latin-america latin-american latin-american-art latino-art latin-wave latinx laura-israel learning-and-interpretation livestream love mail manet maria-fernanda-cardoso masterpiece mastersons mayan-art media meditation mending-craft-and-community mexican-film mexican-modernism mexico mfa-cafe mfah mfah-book-club mfah-films mfah-in-the-community mfah-staff modern modernism monet movie movies movies-houstonians-love mueck mueckmfah museum museum-education music native-american-art nature new nhprc now-on-view now-playing organic oscar-de-la-renta oscars painting paintings paint-the-revolution paris paul-thomas-anderson peacock-in-the-desert-the-royal-arts-of-jodhpur-india peacockmfah persian persian-art photographs photography picasso politics portrait portraits pose prints prints-and-drawings programs queen-victoria radical rebel-jester-mystic-poet recipe rembrandt-van-rijn rienzi ron-mueck rothko sampler school sculpted-in-steel sculpture self-portrait shadow-monsters shepherds short-films slow-art-day snail snapshot social soul soul-of-a-nation spain spanish spanish-art spring streaming style summer technology texas textiles thanksgiving the the-al-sabah-collection theater the-glamour-and-romance-of-oscar-de-la-renta tour trivia tudors-to-windsors valentines-day vangogh venezuelan-art video vincent-van-gogh vincent-van-gogh-his-life-in-art virtual wagner-garden-carpet watercolor winter women-filmmakers womens-history-month works-on-paper yoga zoom