Blog written by Dr. Stanton Thomas, Curator of European & Decorative Art
This impressive pitcher—one of the Decorative Arts Trust’s most recent gifts to the Brooks Museum—belonged to Marcus Brutus Winchester, first mayor of Memphis (1796-1856). Winchester was Memphis’ mayor from 1827 until 1829.
His intertwined initials appear in the beautifully engraved monogram, providing a focal point for the piece’s remarkably elaborate decorations of flowers, scrolls, beading, stylized shells, grapes, and fish scales. Such over-the-top ornamentation, drawn from a variety of sources, is typical of decorative arts from the mid-1800s.
The pitcher suggests the richness of domestic interiors in pre-Civil War Memphis, as well as the city’s antebellum prosperity. It is currently on view in the Decorative Arts Trust: 35th Anniversary Exhibition.
Although the pitcher bears the marks of F.H. Clark & Co., a Memphis company owned by silversmith Frederick Harvey Clark (d. 1866), it was probably made in the Northeast, perhaps in New York or Philadelphia. Clark and other silver makers often imported such works to Memphis, and then personalized them with monograms or inscriptions for his customers.
F.H. Clark & Company
American (Memphis, Tennessee), active 1850-1860
Water Pitcher, 1856
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art; Gift of the Decorative Arts Trust. 100 gifts for 100 years 1916-2016. 2015