This magnificent tankard employs the full vocabulary of ornament found on Boston tankards of the baroque period. Few examples, even by Coney, are so richly decorated. Indeed, of the 27 tankards by Coney recorded in Hermann Clarke's monograph, only two feature the paired-dolphin thumbpiece--the present example, and the example now in the Bayou Bend Collection. Both of these tankards are Coney's most fully developed examples of the form, featuring not only the dolphin thumbpiece, but also cut-card ornament, gadrooning on the cover, a rattail join, and a deeply molded handle with a cylindrical scroll--all decorative elements unique to Boston. The superb engraved coat-of-arms completes the repertoire of high-style decoration, and like the Bayou Bend example, this tankard may be described as the "consummate American expression of Early Baroque silver" (David B. Warren et al., American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection, 1998, fig. M20, pp. 276-277 and illus. opp. p. 267).
The present tankard, a virtual mate to the Bayou Bend example, lost its gadrooned finial when its cover was modified around 1800. Fortunately, the Bayou Bend example retains its original finial, and will provide the model for restoration of the present tankard's cover.
Elizabeth Clarke Cabott was the daughter of William and Hannah (Appleton) Clarke of Boston. She had three husbands: William Winslow (1707-1746), son of silversmith Edward Winslow, Samuel Gardner (c. 1712-1769), a Salem merchant, and Francis Cabott, a prosperous Boston merchant. Her brother, Richard Clarke, was one of the consignees of the tea destroyed in Boston harbor during the Boston Tea Party, the pivotal Revolutionary protest of 1773.
In addition to this tankard, William Clarke also owned a silver basin by Coney, similarly engraved with his coat-of-arms. Upon his death, the basin was left to his wife, Mary Whittingham Saltonstall (d.c. 1729), and the tankard was given to his nephew, William Clarke. The basin eventually was given to the Old South Church in Boston (Jones, op. cit., p. 58).
A silver tankard by John Coney, Boston, 1695-1711
Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Bayou Bend Collection