MARK: Struck on face of base with intaglio “M. Cluff” mark in rectangle reserve.
RELATED WORKS: A complementary sugar bowl (MESDA Acc. No. 2437.1) was made by the same maker for the same owner but most likely at a different date. This sugar bowl bears the mark “Norfolk” but this cream pitcher does not. The differently shaped bases and types of the gadrooning on the rims of the bodies–the sugar bowl has straight gadrooning; that on this cream pitcher is swirled–suggest that the pieces were perhaps purchased from stock that Cluff had on hand rather than made to order.
MAKER: Matthew Cluff worked as a silversmith in Norfolk, Virginia from 1802 to 1816 and then lived in Elizabeth City, North Carolina until his death 1845. He was born in Ireland in 1780 and trained as a silversmith before moving to Virginia sometime before 1802. Cluff’s first advertisement, which ran on 26 February 1803 in the “Norfolk Herald,” was for his partnership with George Ott (1770-1831). The firm of Ott & Cluff operated until 1806 when the partners were advertising independently. Despite dissolving their partnership, Cluff maintained a business and personal relationship with Ott for the remainder of his life, as well as with Norfolk silversmith Charles Branda (d.1850). In December 1816 Cluff purchased a house with land and outbuildings in Elizabeth City, located forty-five miles south of Norfolk. It is unlikely that Cluff worked as a silversmith in North Carolina as most of his business dealings there revolved around purchasing and leasing properties in Elizabeth City. His obituary stated that after Cluff had moved from Norfolk “he became extensively engaged in commerce and till his death, applied his attention to its pursuits” (Virginian [Norfolk], 21 March 1845). See Catherine B. Hollan, “Virginia Silversmiths, Jewelers, Watch- and Clockmakers, 1607-1860: Their Lives and Marks” (McLean, VA: Hollan Press, 2010).
FORM: By the 1790s, most elements of a tea service (coffeepot, teapot, sugar bowl, cream pitcher, and waste bowl) were made somewhat uniformly in style, with the smaller pieces following the form of the coffee and teapots. This partial service consisting of only a sugar bowl and cream pitcher is unusual, although a nearly identical pairing also marked by Matthew Cluff has been documented (MESDA Object Database file D-32490).