About this artwork
A ewer and basin was a necessity for cleaning oneself in 17th- and 18th-century homes, and the choice of materials was an important indicator of a household’s status. Pewter and brass were fine for those who could not afford anything grander, but silver gilt, of which this ewer and basin are made, represented the ultimate in aristocratic luxury. When not in use, such sets were kept in the plate room, where a family’s most splendid metalwork was displayed. In periods of financial hardship, silver vessels were routinely melted down for conversion to bullion, making brilliant examples of workmanship, like this set, quite rare.
At this time, silver was shipped to Europe from South American mines and was worked principally in the cities with the wealthiest clients. Augsburg, Germany, was one such center, and Johann Erhard Heuglin III (1687–1757) was among the most famous in the field, the most renowned member of his well-recognized family of silversmiths. Heuglin was made goldsmith to Emperor Charles VI in 1721 and also worked for Charles’s daughter, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria.
The demanding craft of silversmithing was regulated by strict rules established by the guild: a silversmith began as an apprentice, then trained as a journeyman in another city, and was finally recognized as a master after the completion of his “masterpiece.”
- Johann Erhard Heuglin, II
- Ewer and Basin
- Silver gilt
- 27.3 × 10.5 × 20.3 cm (10 3/4 × 4 1/8 × 8 in.)
- Restricted gift of the Antiquarian Society, S. J. Phillips, and Frank Partridge, Ltd.; gift in honor of Charles C. Cunningham; Emily Crane Chadbourne Fund