Giant Covered Wassail Bowl

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When I found this giant beauty more than half-a-century ago in the window of a Manhattan antiques shop it was holding a vase of daisies. The clerk explained that it had a cover and offered me a discount. It was the largest piece of treen I had seen (it still is) and I dragged it back to my cubicle in the Madison Avenue advertising agency for which I worked. That evening, I lugged it up to my one-room flat and checked out the wood in F Lewis Hinckley’s "Directory of the Historic Cabinet Woods", one of the few books on my shelf. It was too large to be lignum vitae but matched the description of that wood. Puzzled, I looked up Mr Hinckley in the phone book and found him listed in the brownstone next door to mine! When I explained the nature of my call, he was puzzled and said that the East 79th Street address was merely his writing studio, that he and his wife lived in Connecticut. The bowl was too large to be lignum vitae, he reasoned, more likely cocobolo, but he would take a look anyway. Rather than have him trudge five flights in the midst of a heat wave, we met on the stoop below. He concurred, yes, it is lignum vitae and suggested that I send pictures to Edward Pinto in England, who was preparing his monumental "Treen and Other Wooden Bygones" and doubtlessly would want to include this example. I never got around to that, however, but I have kept the piece until now, first and major companion of many subsequent examples of treen. The bowl’s lid has a diameter of approximately 14 inches, overall height approximately 14 inches. Bowl and cover are turned from single-unit timber, the top furnished with a screw-top spice box and gilded pewter grater, the boxwood and ivory finial of which repeats the form of the covered bowl. Condition is very fine and commensurate with the bowl’s age, with some cracks and chips. The finish is dry and lustrous, and the perfume of the wood is pleasantly discernable. (One of the values of the hot punch made in a lignum vitae bowl was the guaiac oil it exuded, a specific against venereal diseases until well into the Nineteenth Century.)


Item Details

Reference #:
Alcohol & Tobacco
Distilled Spirits & Distilleries
Antiques (approx100yrs)
ca. 1650
(Width x Height X Depth)
14.00 x 14.00 x
very fine