Height: 23.5 cm (9 1/4 inches)
Mary B. Jackson Fund 32.193
About the work
Paul Revere, Jr. is best known for his patriotic activities during the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and for his skills as a silversmith. Revere was born and apprenticed to French Huguenot silversmith Apollos Rivoire in Boston, MA, a major center of silver production and innovation in colonial America. During this period, silver signified a high degree of culture as well as great wealth, for affluence could be measured as much in silver possessions as in coin. In fact, theft was so common that fine silver provided some degree of financial protection for the growing class of wealthy elite, since the presence of a maker’s mark, coat of arms, or owner’s initials easily allowed officials to determine the proper ownership of stolen goods. This particular tankard is engraved with the Jackson family coat of arms on the front of the body as well as the owner’s initials, “J.J.A.” on the handle and Revere’s maker’s mark on the bottom.
In addition to being valuable in its own right, the silversmith enhanced his raw material by imbuing it with art and design. Revere’s Tankard is characterized by restrained elegance, a new movement that restored simplicity, symmetry, refinement, and regularity to the decorative arts in response to the extravagant ornamentation of rococo design. Revere’s work shows more variation than many makers, however, as demonstrated here by the pinecone finial, scroll handle, and exceptionally delicate engraving. It is likely that American designers, like the lifelong patriot Revere, saw the potential for these new forms to constitute a more distinct “American” style, especially as tensions rose between Britain and the colonies in the years preceding the War.
What does this object tell us about American values in the late 18th century? What details can you point to that support your claims?
To imagine what it would have been like to design a form like Paul Revere’s Tankard, have your students trace just the outlines of the vessel on a piece of paper. Show them an image of a piece of silver made in the rococo style and discuss the similarities and differences between these two approaches to design.
To explore 18th century colonial America social class and structure, ask your students to invent a context or life for Revere’s Tankard. Who might have commissioned and owned this object? What does it reveal about the owner’s social/economic status and values?
As an object in an art museum, we tend to think of Revere’s Tankard in purely aesthetic terms and forget or ignore the pivotal economic role it played in its own time. To imagine what it would have been like to support oneself as a silversmith during this period, have your students work in teams to develop a persuasive advertisement for such an object using words, pictures, or both to attract potential customers.