Silver Urn Presented to William Bainbridge
Captain William Bainbridge and his crew were celebrated as heroes when USS Constitution returned to Boston after defeating the British frigate HMS Java during the War of 1812.
In honor of the naval victory, the Citizens of Philadelphia presented this silver urn, decorated with an engraved scene of the battle between Constitution and Java, to Bainbridge. The urn was produced by the Philadelphia silversmith firm of Thomas Fletcher (1787–1866) and Sidney Gardiner (1787–1827), America’s premier makers of presentation silver. In 1812, Fletcher & Gardiner produced a similar, albeit considerably larger, silver urn for Captain Isaac Hull following his defeat of HMS Guerriere.
This urn, known as a vase when it was made, is an example of extraordinary workmanship and exhibits a variety of techniques, including cast, applied, incised, chased, repoussé (hammered from behind), embossed, and engraved decorations. It is an excellent example of the Empire style in the decorative arts, popular throughout the Euro-American world in the early 19th century. This style, popularized in Napoleonic France, drew on archaeological discoveries in Greece, Rome, and Egypt at that time.