The Four Engraved Platters
This serving plate, or platter, is one of only four surviving engraved platters of the early Colonial period, all made in Boston by a closely-tied group of masters and apprentices, probably using a shared print source for the engraved ornament. The present platter, along with another by Dummer, one by Timothy Dwight, and one by John Coney comprise the group (all illustrated here, facing page).
The related Dummer platter has been owned by Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Philadelphia since the late 19th century, and was published in the Church history of 1917 as having a “floriated border, engraved with leaves and birds . . . maker’s mark ‘I.D.’ in a shield with a fleur-de-lis” (Norris Stanley Barratt, Outline of the History of Old St. Paul’s Church, 1917, Appendix C). This platter has one engraved cherub’s head and may be the “Head Plate” listed in the Church’s inventory in April 1882. It has been on loan to the Philadelphia Museum of Art since 1974 (illustrated in Jack Lindsey, Worldly Goods: The Arts of Early Pennsylvania 1680—1758, 1999, no. 183, p. 184, fig. 212). The catalogue suggests it was owned by Edward Shippen, who moved from Boston to Philadelphia in 1693.
The two other engraved platters, by Dummer’s contemporary Timothy Dwight and Dummer’s apprentice John Coney, are both in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All four examples, while apparently engraved by different hands, appear to be based on the same design source—a meandering foliate vine punctuated with carnations, tulips and sunflowers, recalling textile and needlework designs of the same period. The Coney platter is especially interesting because its engraved ornament is linked to the two Dummer examples by the inclusion of cherub’s masks with squared heads, similar facial features, curling hair, drapery at the neck, and stylized wings. (Kathryn C. Buhler, American Silver in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1972, no. 26, pp. 31-32, and no. 36, pp. 45-46; the Dwight platter is there described as a salver, but the foot is a later addition).
Both Dummer and Dwight, of the first generation of native-born silversmiths, apprenticed in Boston with English-trained John Hull and Robert Sanderson, and it is tempting to conclude that the pattern for all of these engraved platters came from Sanderson, whose work exhibits similar foliate engraving. Indeed, a tankard by Dummer is virtually identical to one by Sanderson, including spiraling flowers engraved on the cover (both tankards are illustrated here, p. XX; the Dummer example is also illustrated in Clarke & Foote, Jeremiah Dummer, 1935, no. 87, Pl. XVIII and the Sanderson example in Buhler, American Silver in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1972, cat. no. 1, pp. 2-3). The Dummer tankard includes carnations similar to those on the present platter and his platter in Philadelphia.
A small side plate or paten by Dummer survives, with a very similar if not the exact molded border as on his two engraved platters. It is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Buhler, op. cit., p. 22, fig. 19).
Another piece by Dummer with elaborate engraved decoration is a chinoiserie tankard of circa 1685 formerly in the Ruth J. Nutt Collection, recently given to the Seattle Art Museum (2014.24.16).
Silver dinner plates, smaller than the platters at around 9 ¾ in. diameter, are also exceedingly rare in this period; only four exist, and none have the lavish engraved borders which seemed to be reserved for the more ceremonial serving-plate size. Three from a set made by Edward Winslow for the Foster family of Boston survive (see Beth Carver Wees, Early American Silver in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013, no. 53, pp. 145-146). The only other known dinner-sized plate extant from this period, at 9 1/8 in. diameter, was made by John Coney for Sarah Eliot, circa 1690, and was sold at Sotheby’s, 18 January 2002, lot 463. There is a fifth known large plate from this period, by John Coney, circa 1685, with a wider but plain border, engraved only with a coat-of-arms (illustrated in Francis J. Puig, et al., English and American Silver in the Collection of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1989, no. 173, pp. 208-209).
Andrew Diamond and His Other Known Silver
Andrew Diamond, original owner of this platter, earned his fortune by exporting dried codfish to the West Indies. He owned Smuttynose Island, one of the Shoals Islands off the coast of present-day New Hampshire, then still part of Massachusetts Bay Colony, where codfish were abundant. The catch was dried at his wharf, “Diamond Stage,” a drumlin island at the mouth of the Ipswich River, and sent to the West Indies as food (William Sargent, The House on Ipswich Marsh: Exploring the Natural History of New England, 2005, pp. 40-42). Diamond also was a taverner and a magistrate on Smuttynose Island, where he died, leaving both his Ipswich property and “plate” to his wife (Will, 26 November 1706, Essex Deeds, vol. 20, p 69).
Another piece of silver made by Dummer for Andrew and Joanna Diamond survives--a beaker engraved with the same monogram as on this plate. It was given to the Church in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire by Andrew Diamond’s second wife Elizabeth’s second husband, Rev. Theophilus Cotton, who inherited Andrew Diamond’s “house hold stuff, money, plate, goods and wares” in Ipswich when he married Elizabeth Diamond in 1708 (Settlement, 13 April 1708, Essex Deeds, vol. 22, p. 235). The beaker is illustrated in E. Alfred Jones, The Old Silver of American Churches, 1913, p. 203, illus. Pl. LXX.
Andrew Diamond, along with another Ipswich resident Edward Bragg, contributed a silver beaker to the Church of Ipswich, now in the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery. This beaker is engraved with the inscription: “AD’s and EB’s Gift to the Church of Ipswich” and is published in Buhler & Hood, American Silver . . . in the Yale University Art Gallery, 1970, no. 64, p. 68. It is illustrated in Jones, op. cit., Pl. LXXVIII.