The tea urn was the centerpiece of the tea table in the late eighteenth century. Its imposing form, modeled on the urns of classical antiquity, elegantly fulfilled its function as a hot water basin. John "Jacky" Parke Custis may have ordered this urn as a part of an extensive suite of silver purchased on the occasion of his marriage to Eleanor Calvert in 1774. The surviving son of Martha Dandridge Custis Washington and the stepson of George Washington, Jacky had inherited his share of the Custis fortune the year before. The English-made urn, engraved with the Custis arms, presented an extravagant display of wealth for so young a couple.
Silver hot water urn consisting of three pieces: pedestal, body, and cover; raised urn-shaped body on circular trumpet pedestal supported by a square plinth with four ball feet; half-reeded body engraved at center front with a splayed griffon, head facing left, in a shield suspended from a ribbon and flanked by two flowering sprigs; at the base of the body is a recessed, cylindrical chamber to receive the heated iron; raised, reeded, domed lid with acorn finial; front shoulder of the lid and front of the trumpet pedestal are engraved with the Custis family crest, the head of an eagle issuing from a wreath; beading around shoulder and top edge of urn and end of spigot; short C-scroll handles attached at shoulder with acanthus leaf terminals; reeded spigot with acanthus leaf decoration on side and ivory stopper; body attached to pedestal with a twist-lock fastening.
Overall: 21 7/8 in. x 10 3/4 in. x 11 1/4 in. (55.58 cm x 27.31 cm x 28.58 cm)
Other (cover): 3 3/4 in. x 3 5/8 in. x 3 5/8 in. (9.53 cm x 9.19 cm x 9.19 cm)
Other (base): 6 3/4 in. x 5 3/4 in. x 5 3/4 in. (17.15 cm x 14.61 cm x 14.61 cm)
Other (urn): 12 3/4 in. (32.39 cm)
Stamped on the inside lip of the cover: maker's mark, "I C" with a grain between the initials, lion passant
Stamped on the underside of the urn, at the top of the recessed chamber: Date letter, "T" in Gothic script within a shield, leopard's head crowned, lion passant, partially obscured maker's mark, "I C" with a grain between the initials.
Stamped on the inside lip of the pedestal: Date letter, "T" in Gothic script within a shield, leopard's head crowned, lion passant.
Stamped on the front of the spigot, partially obscured by a screw: lion passant.
Engraved on the shoulder of the cover and the base of the pedestal: eagle's head crest.
Engraved on the body of the urn: shield with eagle displayed, surmounted by a bow and ribbon and surrounded by a floral garland.
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