Four Chinese Export Porcelain Octagonal Plates from Ignatius Sargent's Service
Portrait of Mary McIntosh Williams Sargent
Portrait of Governor Winthrop Sargent
Eight Chinese Export Porcelain Octagonal Plates from Ignatius Sargent's Service
Until the 20th century, American military officers provided their own uniforms, arms, horses, servants, and whatever amenities they could afford. Simple, beaker-shaped silver cups of pint capacity or of dram size like these were a comfort in the equipment of an officer. Silver was durable and relatively sanitary, and camp cups were often compact or made to nest for ease of packing. While these appear small to modern eyes, they probably were used for wine as well as spirits; wine glasses of the period held only about two ounces and were intended to be refilled frequently.
Not surprisingly, camp cups received hard wear and frequently found their way to the melting pot as items of little intrinsic value. Many must have been lost or stolen in the heat of battle or the tedium of marches.1One of the sets made by Richard Humphreys and said to have been owned by George Washington is at the Yale University Art Gallery (Buhler and Hood, 2: 209–10). A set of eight cups made by Joseph Edwards and Richard Humphreys for General Nathaniel Greene is in the Hammerslough Collection, as are a pair made by Allen Armstrong of Philadelphia for Colonel I. Simmons (Hammerslough and Feigenbaum, 3: 35–36, 4: 58–59). The inscription on this set recalling its use by Major Winthrop Sargent during the Revolutionary War appears to have been engraved very shortly after Sargent’s termination of service in 1785; the commemorative and evocative inscription no doubt accounts for the survival of these mementos of America’s struggle for independence. Sargent was an aide-de-camp to George Washington; family lore holds that the cups survived Valley Forge and Yorktown (see Acc. No. 73.55 for a portrait of Sargent, and Acc. No. 85.43 for porcelain with the Sargent coat of arms). A set of at least twelve cups descended in Major Sargent’s family.
Plain and utilitarian in form, these cups were raised from a circle of silver, their slightly flaring sides relieved only by two inscribed lines near the rim. The finely engraved large initials are indicative of the skill of Joseph Anthony, Jr., and of the emerging neoclassical style of the 1780s.
Although Anthony (1762–1814) is always listed as a Philadelphia silversmith, he was born and trained in Newport, Rhode Island. Beatrice Garvan has suggested that John Tanner (1713–1785) may have been young Joseph’s master.2Philadelphia: Three Centuries, 150. The silversmith’s father, Joseph Anthony, Sr., was a sea captain engaged in the coastal trade between Newport and Philadelphia. At the end of the Revolution, the entire family relocated to Philadelphia and Joseph, Jr., opened his shop on Market (High) Street. Joseph Anthony, Jr., seems to have benefited from his father’s important business connections, since he counted George Washington and the Penn family among his clients soon after he went into business. In 1811, Joseph, Jr., took his sons Michael and Thomas into partnership.3Ibid., 150–151.
Jennifer F. Goldsborough
Excerpted from Clement E. Conger, et al. Treasures of State: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the U.S. Department of State. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1991.