The devil you say…

I’ve written an earlier post about the many faces of Henry Hirschfeld’s “Assyrian” patent design that was manufactured by 1847 Rogers Bros. as well as Rogers & Bro.  The faces depicted on various pieces of flatware in that pattern ranged from attractive female faces to rather bizarre, almost demonic images.

Close-Up of Head on Assyrian Nut Pick

Close-Up of Head on Assyrian Nut Pick

The face on the nut pick had an especially grotesque look.  And the face on the nut crack was even more than grotesque…it was down right demonic looking.  Oh, it didn’t have horns, mind you.  But it had a decidedly evil look.

I knew the face on the nut pick was later changed to a benign female face which resembled the image shown in Mr. Hirschfeld’s patent application.  And I wondered if, in fact, the nut pick and nut crack were actually produced with those bizarre faces.  I’ve since discovered that, yes, those faces did appear on early examples of nut picks and cracks produced in the later part of the 19th Century by 1847 Rogers.   And then I subsequently came across another devilish pattern.

Close-Up of Assyrian Nut Crack Face

Close-Up of Assyrian Nut Crack Face

This second devilish face was the “Italian” pattern by Austin F. Jackson and manufactured by Reed & Barton.  The faces in this pattern varied.  All were pretty scary looking and one, the third in the top row in the photo shown below, had the appearance of horns.

Variations of the "Italian" Face

Variations of the “Italian” Face

You can read more about this Italian pattern here:

Reed & Barton also produced a line of hollow ware which complemented this “Italian” pattern flatware.  And now there was no doubt…we’re talking the devil himself.  I have a casserole server in this pattern and there are four faces included in the pattern:

Devils in the Design

Devils in the Design

The casserole server itself is very attractive but when you get a close-up view of the banding toward the bottom, you see the four faces shown above:

Reed & Barton Casserole Server With Devil Faces

Reed & Barton Casserole Server With Devil Faces

Another Reed & Barton pattern was “Renaissance” and this, too, was designed by Austin F. Jackson and patented in 1886.  The following illustration was taken from Tere Hagan’s book “Silverplated Flatware”.  You can definitely see little horns at the top of head.

Illustration of "Renaissance" Pattern

Illustration of “Renaissance” Pattern

What is interesting is that there is no mention of “devil” or “satan” or even “horns” in any of these patent applications.  Following is an excerpt from Austin Jackson’s patent application for the “Renaissance” pattern.  He talks about a mask or face “surrounded by a fanciful head-gear”.   “Fanciful head-gear”, hah!  Looks like horns to me!

Excerpt from Austin Jackson's Patent Application

Excerpt from Austin Jackson’s Patent Application

Coming across these three patterns within a relatively short period of time made me start to wonder what was happening in the popular culture of the 1800’s that prompted this demonic theme.

Centuries earlier, in 1321, Dante had written the “Inferno”.  Other notable “devil” themed works of literature include Christopher Marlowe’s “Doctor Faustus” in 1604, John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” in 1667 and William Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in the late 1700’s.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published “Faust” Part 1 in 1808 and Part 2 in 1832.  “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne was published in 1850.  “The Temptation   of Saint Anthony” by Gustave Flaubert was published in 1874 and Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” in 1880.  Even Mark Twain got into the act with “A Pen Warmed Up In Hell” published in 1889.

During the era of Romanticism (1825-1860) the figure of the Devil got a new meaning and incredible importance.  Percy Bysshe Shelly and Lord Byron made the Devil into a representative icon of the Romantic movement. Rather than simply a symbol of pure evil, the Romantic Satan appeared as an embodiment of vitality, strength, boldness and political and cultural rebellion.  The Devil was treated as a tragic or heroic figure.

The “devil-compact” theme of the legendary Faust who offered up his soul in exchange for otherwordly pleasure and power was adjusted somewhat by Goethe.  His Faust desired  limitless knowledge.  Because his intentions were not purely selfish or evil he was able to circumvent his contract with the devil and prevent his soul from being cast into hell.   Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray”, another deal with the devil story, was published in 1891.

Charles Gounod’s grand opera “Faust” opened to a rocky start in 1859.  However, it was revived in Paris in 1862, and was a hit. A ballet had to be inserted before the work could be performed at the Paris Opera House in 1869: it became the most frequently performed opera at that house and a staple of the international repertory, which it remained for decades, being translated into at least 25 languages.

So, the devil was a popular persona in the 1800’s.  Why not include some of those devil images on flatware and hollow ware?

Reed & Barton Epergne Shown in 1885 Catalog

Reed & Barton Epergne Shown in 1885 Catalog

The image above, taken from the 1885 Reed & Barton catalog, has a horned devil featured in the center toward the bottom.

And the inkwell illustration shown below was taken from the 1886 Meriden Britannia catalog.

Inkwell from 1886 Meriden Britannia Catalog

Inkwell from 1886 Meriden Britannia Catalog

The earliest devil faced flatware patent that I’ve seen is this 1862 design by Henry Hebberd.

Henry Hebberd's 1862 "Grecian" Pattern

Henry Hebberd’s 1862 “Grecian” Pattern

It’s difficult to see the detail on the patent illustration shown above; it is clearer in the image below.  See the little horns at the top of his head?  And is that a long tongue extending from his mouth or what?

Tiffany "Grecian" Pattern

Tiffany “Grecian” Pattern

This pattern was manufactured by Tiffany and later by Whiting.

What is interesting is that although these examples of “devil designs” can be found in silverplate from the late 1800’s, it really isn’t present in transferware pottery from the same period.  The only pattern that I know of which might remotely fit into this theme would be the “Makassar” pattern by Scottish potter, J. & M.P. Bell, with an 1890 registration number.

"Makassar" Pattern by J & MP Bell

“Makassar” Pattern by J & MP Bell

There are dragon designs and some sort of animal with really strange faces on this plate.  And I could actually see the “Italian” pattern flatware working well with this “Makassar” pottery!

Update 2/18/20:  In a comment shown below you’ll find a question about Reed & Barton tongs in a pattern not easily identifiable. Following are two photos of these tongs:



I was told they were only 3 and 3/8 inches in length. The pattern was one that I had not seen before. I searched through all my reference books and found nothing.  Both the Italian pattern as well as the Renaissance pattern had multiple design variation depending on serving piece.  I turned to the Replacements Ltd website and looked at their inventory for Italian. Although they didn’t have an image for tongs in the Italian pattern, they did state that the length of the tongs was 3 and 3/8 inches which matches our mystery tongs.

I then looked at their inventory for the Renaissance pattern. They did have an image for tongs, which were shown to be 4 and 1/4 inches.  The design on the tongs was undeniably the Renaissance pattern that we are familiar with and not at all similar to our mystery tongs.

It is my opinion that the mystery tongs are most likely the Italian pattern. Although there are design elements not similar to the Italian pattern, it is not unusual for the designer to improvise on certain pieces and I believe that is what happened on these tongs.

If anyone can shed light on the pattern of these tongs, I’d welcome your comments.

Reed & Barton Sugar Shell in "Italian" Pattern

Reed & Barton Sugar Shell in “Italian” Pattern

The “Italian” sugar shell shown above is available at my Etsy shop here:

And the “Italian” casserole server can be found here at my Etsy shop:

This entry was posted in 1847 Rogers Bros., Assyrian, Assyrian Head, Austin F. Jackson, devil, Grecian pattern, Henry Hebberd, Henry Hirschfeld, Italian pattern, J &I MP Bell, Late 1800's, Meriden Britannia, queenofsienna, Reed & Barton, Renaissance Pattern, Rogers & Bro., satan, silver plate, silverplate, transferware and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The devil you say…

  1. KerryCan says:

    This is fascinating! I never considered the “popularity” of the devil in that time period–great insights.

  2. Pingback: Italian Squirrel | queenofsienna

  3. David Schultz says:

    I have a sugar or bon bon tongs from Reed & Barton with a face on it, but I can’t seem to find the pattern anywhere. It doesn’t seem to be Renaissance or Italian. Might I be able to send you photos? I have tried forums and no one seems to recognize it either. Thank you.

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