Attributed to Christian Wiltberger (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1766–1851 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
Made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Overall: 7 x 11 5/16 x 4 1/2 in. (17.8 x 28.7 x 11.4 cm); 21 oz. 17 dwt. (680 g)
Base: 5 3/8 x 3 1/8 in. (13.7 x 7.9 cm)
Gift of H. H. Walker Lewis, in memory of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Edwin A. S. Lewis, 1980
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 750
This handsome tea and coffee service (1980.503.1--.4), although unmarked, has been attributed to the Philadelphia silversmith Christian Wiltberger on the basis of style. Stately and dignified, with its fluted forms and generous proportions, it represents the fully matured Neoclassical style. The service belonged to Eleanor Parke (Nelly) Custis (1779–1852), granddaughter of Martha Washington, who married George Washington's nephew Lawrence Lewis (1767–1839) on February 22, 1799. Family tradition holds that the service was a gift from General Lafayette and his son, who were close friends of the family. In addition to the matching bands of bright-cut ornament, each piece is engraved with the Lewis crest and with the script monogram "LEPL" for Lawrence and Eleanor Parke Lewis. In place of the customary urn or flame-shaped finial, cast eagles surmount three of the pieces, especially appropriate for America's first family.
Inscription: engraved on body to right of handle in shaded interlaced script: LEPL [with Lewis family crest above]
Lawrence (1767–1839) and Eleanor Parke Custis (1779–1852) Lewis; to their son Lorenzo (1803–1847) and Esther Maria Coxe (b. 1804) Lewis, Berryville, VA; to their son Edward Parke Custis Lewis (1837–1892), Hoboken, NJ; to his son Edwin Augustus Stevens (1870–1906) and Alice Stuart Walker (1877–1974) Lewis; to their son, Henry Harrison Walker Lewis (b. 1904), Hoboken, NJ; gift to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, 1980.