New Acquisitions

Huntington Museum of Art Acquires Exceptional Sugar/Tea Caddy Set

Huntington Museum of Art Acquires Exceptional Sugar/Tea Caddy Set

The Huntington Museum of Art has acquired this three-piece sugar and tea caddy set by Royal goldsmith Thomas Heming. Photo by John Spurlock.

The Huntington Museum of Art has acquired a rare, three-piece sugar and tea caddy set made by the noted Royal goldsmith, Thomas Heming, in 1757.

Decorated in the tea-pickers’ pattern, the surfaces of each piece are covered in elaborately worked Chinoiserie designs showing Chinese figures picking tea leaves while the wind – represented by a lion’s head – blows down from the heavens above. On the short sides of each piece are depictions of Asian-style pagodas or cottages.  Atop each hinged lid sits the figure of a young boy who grasps a sheaf of tea leaves in his right hand. Of special importance is that the three pieces come with their original, purple velvet-lined, silver-mounted, shagreen, green leather case, which is almost always missing.

The set was made by the Royal goldsmith, Thomas Heming (1722-1801), who was apprenticed in 1738 to the Huguenot goldsmith, Peter Archambo (1699-1759).  His early work is remarkably similar to that of his teacher, Archambo, who was known for “a French delicacy of taste and refinement of execution," according to information about Heming on the website of Koopman Rare Art of the United Kingdom.  Just three years after completing this set, in 1760, Heming was appointed as the principal goldsmith to King George III, retaining that position until 1782.

The set eventually found its way into the collection of Queen Elizabeth II, from whom it was gifted to the respected attorney and noted American bibliophile, Robert Pirie (1934-2015).  Pirie specialized in 16th and 17thcentury English literature and grew his library into one of the finest held in private hands.  Following his death, a number of his holdings were acquired by the Folger Shakespeare Library.  The silver set was acquired by the museum from his estate.

The remarkable, original condition of the set is unusual, and it certainly has something to do with the survival of its fitted case.  While not made for the King, the set was probably once part of an ambassadorial service that was returned to the crown and stored, which may indicate why the original case and its contents survived in such excellent shape.

The museum plans to install the newly acquired pieces in an exhibition of British silver and decorative arts titled “Domestic Delights,” which will be on view at the museum from September 2017 through April 2018.

New Acquisitions

Morning on the Ohio River

Morning on the Ohio River

Joseph Rusling Meeker (American, 1827-1887), Morning on the Ohio River, 1871. Oil on canvas, 12” x 18”. Image courtesy of the Huntington Museum of Art. Photo by John Spurlock.

Huntington Museum of Art Acquires Work by Artist Joseph Rusling Meeker

The Huntington Museum of Art has announced the acquisition of an 1871 painting by Joseph Rusling Meeker titled Morning on the Ohio River. The painting was created in the same year that Huntington was founded.

Acquiring the Meeker painting is part of a goal by new HMA Executive Director Geoffrey K. Fleming to create a collection of artwork that either depicts West Virginia and its important River Valleys or that features artwork by West Virginia artists prior to 1940. This collection focusing on depictions of West Virginia and works by early West Virginia artists will help round out HMA's outstanding permanent art collection of more than 15,000 works.

"This painting is an important work and I am happy to say that it has found a home at the Huntington Museum of Art," Fleming said. "I believe there are many quality works depicting West Virginia or created by West Virginia artists that are affordable and could become part of HMA's permanent collection if funding can be found for this purpose."  Fleming noted the Museum is seeking the donation of works that meet the above criteria to also help build this collection. “There are few things more enriching than to be able to visit a museum and view artworks that depict the place in which we were raised and live,” he continued.

Meeker was born in Auburn, New York, in 1827. He moved to New York City in 1845 to study at the National Academy of Design. His first art studio was established four years later in Buffalo, New York.

Meeker lived in Louisville, Ky., for most of the 1850s before relocating to St. Louis. Meeker's time in the U.S. Navy during the Civil War gave him the opportunity to study American waterways. Although he was a portrait artist earlier in his career, Meeker would later focus on landscapes that included important American waterways. Meeker died in 1887.

During his lifetime, Meeker's work was shown at the American Art-Union; the Boston Art Club; National Academy of Design; and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Meeker's artwork joins the permanent collection of the Huntington Museum of Art, but it can also be found in the collections of the University of Kentucky, Lexington; Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Saint Louis Art Museum; and Washington University Gallery of Art, among others.