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Friday, June 05, 2015

Monteith Madness



Is your home equipped with a monteith? The Rosenbach certainly is.

John Sutton, monteith. London, 1708. 1954.1784 Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

What, you may well ask is a monteith. A monteith is a vessel with a notched rim that served to hold the feet of stemware while their bowls were chilled in cool water.  Such cooling vessels, named monteiths after a “Monsieur Monteigh” who reputedly wore a scallop-edged coat, were developed in the late seventeenth century.  

Our monteith was made by London silversmith John Sutton. Its marks date it to 1708 and it is made of Britannia silver, a silver alloy with more silver content than sterling. Britannia silver was mandated from 1697 to 1720 to discourage the melting down of sterling silver coinage. An inscription on the front of the vessel indicates that it was given by the owners of the Prince George to Richard Arding in 1710.

John Sutton, monteith. London, 1708. 1954.1784 Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia

A bit of Googling around finds that the Prince George was a merchant vessel (a galley) involved in the Spanish wars. Richard Arding was the commander of the ship, which carried 60 guns and 50 men. Apparently Arding would soon run into some trouble with his ship, as in 1712 the ship's owners petitioned the queen, hoping to secure the release of Arding and his crew who had been shipwrecked on the Barbary coast and were feared captured as slaves.

Whatever Arding's personal hardships, his monteith is elaborately decorated and is a beautiful piece. It features a detachable rim, allowing it to double as a bowl for punch, a popular eighteenth century drink consisting of alcohol, lemon, sugar, spices, and water. To learn more about punch, you can check out the NPR interview with David Wondrich, author of Punch: The Dangers and Delights of the Flowing Bowl. Our own flowing bowl features an engraved decoration on the bottom: a rampant griffon. This would have been obscured when the bowl was in use as a monteith or punch bowl, but would have been seen when it was displayed or drained. 


John Sutton, monteith. London, 1708. 1954.1784 Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Pass the punch please!


Kathy Haas is the Associate Curator at the Rosenbach Museum & Library and the primary poster at the Rosen-blog

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