Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Pair of andirons

Benjamin Pyne (active 1693–1727)
British, London
Silver, iron
Height (each): 21 3/8 in. (54.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Irwin Untermyer, 1968
Accession Number:
68.141.155a, b
Not on view
Fire dogs, or andirons—a term that in England is reserved for hand irons such as the poker, tongs, and shovel for use on the hearth—have a strong, raised projection behind and across which logs are laid in an open, wide-chimney fireplace. The generous silver fronts on these andirons are not functionally necessary, but would have been used in a great room and reveal their period by the volume and strength of the short scroll legs and scrolled-edged platform, which supports a vase of grandiose weight, the shoulder much wider than the base and the central body enlivened by a row of acanthus-leaf tips in high relief.

When ornamented, fire dogs made of iron were fronted with brass or, occasionally, enamel on brass. These pieces by Benjamin Pyne are two rare survivals in silver. Pyne had a long career as a goldsmith in London and much of his work for municipalities and churches has survived; in 1715, he was appointed Subordinate Goldsmith for the coronation of the first Hanoverian king, George I, and in 1725 he was elected Prime Warden of the goldsmiths' guild. Pyne's work is often marked by the massiveness and simplicity seen in these andirons.
Marking: [1] Britannia (English quality mark for sterling);
[2] Lion's head erased (English quality mark for sterling);
[3] b (London date letter for 1697–98);
[4] PY, cinquefoil above, crowned (maker's mark for Benjamin Pyne).

Location of marks:
[1]–[4] on cylindrical body of vase;
[2] on flat of pedestal; on neck of vase;
[4] on finial of vase;
[1], [3], [4] on face of pedestal near applied cartouche
Sir Giles Sebright (until 1936 and 1937; sale, Christie's, London, May 20, 1936, no. 130, and sale, Christie's, London, May 5, 1937, no. 97); Irwin Untermyer , New York (until 1968; to MMA)
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