This previously unpublished and unrecorded tankard is an extremely important addition to the small group of silver made by the first Huguenot goldsmith in New York, Bartholomew Le Roux (1663-1713). Fewer than 20 objects made by Le Roux survive, and this tankard ranks as one of his masterworks. It is decorated with all of the signature characteristics of early New York silver in the Dutch tradition: applied cherub's mask, lion, crimped wire, and cut card, an engraved medallion on the cover, and a finely detailed coat-of-arms in an elaborate baroque cartouche with pendant fruit.
Bartholomew Le Roux worked in New York City for more than twenty-five years (1687-circa 1713). For most of that time, he was the sole silversmith of Huguenot descent in New York. He was a successful businessman; tax records in 1695 placed his wealth in the upper 30 of all residents (McKinsey, p. 33). His skill as a craftsman extended from a two-handled cup and cover, with elaborate foliate chasing and cast caryatid handles (now in the Minneapolis Institute of Art) to a set of four sucket forks (now at Historic Deerfield). There is only one other known tankard by Le Roux; made for Helena Willet of Flushing, New York, it features similar cut-card, applied cherub's mask and pendant fruit, but lacks the sumptuous engraving of the present lot.
The fine engraved baroque foliate mantling on the tankard is also featured on a pair of trencher salt cellars by Le Roux, with the arms of de Peyster, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This mantling, often embellished with pendant fruit and ribbons as on the present lot, points to the existence of a specialist engraver in New York City. The same mantling is found on silver made by Le Roux's contemporaries, such as Jacobus van der Spiegel, Benjamin Wynkoop and Cornelius Kierstede, for a number of important patrons, including the Livingston, Philipse, Schuyler, Van Cortlandt, Van Schaick, Bayard and Wendell families between the dates of 1690-1720.
The engraved medallion on the cover of the tankard depicts an allegorical scene of Charity. Probably derived from a Biblical source, pictorial engraving was another feature of Dutch influence upon silver design.
Obadiah Hunt[t], whose name and the date 1710 are engraved under the base of this tankard, was the successful proprietor of an eponymous tavern in lower Manhattan. Hunt's choice of Le Roux as craftsman was natural. They were both prominent citizens who had served as constable and assistant alderman respectively to the Common Council. Hunt too was a first-generation immigrant to the colonies, arriving sometime before 1695. Records at Trinity Church state: "Obadiah Hunt, from Birmingham in Warwick, their with his wife Susannah from Credly in Heariford their in Oldingland."
Obadiah Hunt kept a fine and popular establishment at 35 Pearl Street, at the center of the thriving New York port. He had a prime location facing the waterfront and adjoining the Customs House at the tip of Manhattan. English and Huguenot merchants clustered in this area, which was just south of Fort George.
Hunt's Tavern hosted a mixture of merchants and politicians. It was frequently used as the site of official festivities, as well as business and political meetings. The minutes of the Common Council of New York City on October 20, 1718 record: "The tavern of Obadiah Hunt is chosen as the house of entertainment by the corporation of the city, on the anniversary of the king's coronation." The city chose to hold its festivities there again, a few weeks later on November 5. In September 1720, a gala dinner was held at Hunt's Tavern in honor of the visiting Royal Governor, William Burnet. Hunt billed the Common Council of the city £21:6:6 "for a Dinner, Wine, Beer, Cyder and other Expences at his house by this Corporation on an Entertainment to his Excellency the Gouvernor on the 20th Instant Soon after his Arrivall." He again hosted a Royal Governor, John Montgomerie, in April 1728, for which he billed the Council £15:6:6.
Obadiah Hunt ran the tavern for almost 20 years. In 1735, Hunt advertised its sale in the New York Journal: "The Lotts and Houses next to the Custom House in New-York, wherein are 9 Fire Places, with a large Yard, a Stable, a Cestern, a Well, and a Pump, in the Kitchen, a large Crane to the Chimney, with Stones, Dressers, and several other Things, that may be left for the Use of a Tenant."
(Sources: Minutes of the Common Council of the City of New York; Kristan H. McKinsey, New York City Silversmiths and Their Patrons, 1687-1750, MA thesis, University of Delaware, 1984; I.N. Phelps Stokes, The Iconography of Manhattan Island, reprint, 1998; Deborah Dependahl Waters, Elegant Plate: Three Centuries of Precious Metals in New York City, vol. 1, 2000)
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An early panoramic view of New York City, thought to depict the festivities in honour of the King's Birthday on June 4, 1717. Hunt's Tavern hosted dinners for several such events. The tavern at 35 Pearl Street was at the tip of Manhattan directly facing the port, at the far left of this panorama. Artist William Burgis, circa 1717, engraver Thomas Bakewell, 1747. Courtesy Museum of the City of New York.
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The Carwitham Plan of New York City, depicted circa 1730.
Courtesy Holkham Hall, Norfolk, England.
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Bartholomew Le Roux lived and worked at the corner of Broadway and Morris from 1693
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Engraving under tankard and Le Roux's mark. Obadiah Hunt lived above his tavern at 35 Pearl Street.