This previously unrecorded tankard is one of the last great 17th century New York tankards remaining in private hands. The combination of engraved and applied decoration create a "vocabulary piece" of the Dutch baroque style in early New York silver. The elaborate foliate cartouche surrounding the coat-of-arms belongs to a school of particularly fine engraving found on the best examples of New York silver from 1690 to 1720. Additionally, this tankard is one of three, all by van der Spiegel, with superb foliate engraving on the covers, distinguished by pairs of birds and/or cherub's heads (see the example at Yale, Buhler & Hood, no. 567, and the other example at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bulletin, Summer 1983, p. 28; and illustrations on page 72).
The Yale example, acknowledged to be the finest New York tankard known, is virtually identical to the present example. They share the same applied ornament: a lion at the handle grip, a cherub's mask on the terminal, crimped wire at the hinge and base, identically stamped cut-card leaves at the base, and a corkscrew thumbpiece. The engraving of the cartouche around the coat-of-arms and of the foliage on the cover are also the same, with the exception of the addition of a narrow border of foliage on the cover of the Yale example (see detail this page).
The coat-of-arms on the tankard was apparently adopted by the Cornell family after they came to the new world, as is the case with many New Amsterdam families. Heraldically, the tree in the center relates to many Dutch coats, including the arms of the de Peyster family (see van der Spiegel's tankard this page). The chase scene, in this case a stag and hound, also appears in recorded Dutch arms. However, the realistically depicted landscape in the background is unusual if not unique, and it is possible that the entire shield is not a coat-of-arms but rather an emblem of the Cornell family in New York. Johannes Cornell's grandfather, Guilliam Cornelis (b.c. 1600) emigrated to New Amsterdam in 1640. Guilliam was the son of a prosperous Rotterdam merchant, and his first venture in the new world was the command of a merchant vessel called Oak Tree. It is tempting to interpret the central tree in the shield on this tankard as a reference to this early family enterprise. Guilliam had acquired substantial property in Manhattan by 1647. In 1658, Pieter Stuyvesant granted him lands in Flatbush, where he undertook farming activities in addition to his career at sea.
Johannes Cornell was also a prominent landowner, and around the time of the making of this tankard, he moved from Flatbush to Jamaica, Long Island, acquiring lands there in 1688 and 1692. In 1714, he purchased 46 acres in Flushing. However, he retained the family holdings in Flatbush, which he named as his residence in his will of 1745.
Jacobus van der Spiegel (1668-1708) is recognized as one of the most skilled silversmiths of his day. Among his best known surviving work is the tankard at Yale, discussed above, and the superb standing salt at the Brooklyn Museum--the only American example of the form. Interestingly, the Yale tankard, made for Hendrick Myer of New York, is also engraved with an emblematic rather than a heraldic shield. For biographical details, see Ian Quimby, American Silver at Winterthur, p. 308, and Deborah Dependahl Watters, Elegant Plate, p. 213.
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Tankard by Jacobus van der Spiegel, engraved with the arms of de Peyster, unknown collection
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Detail of cover of tankard by Jacobus van der Spiegel, with mirror cypher RHM for Robert and Maria Harris, circa 1695. Fletcher Fund, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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Detail of cover of tankard by Jacobus van der Spiegel, with mirror cypher HWM for Hendrick and Wyntje Myer. Yale University Art Gallery. Mr. and Mrs. Frances P. Garvan and Spotswood D. Bowers.