Spirit barrel ("punch keg") and stand, before 1785
Photo by Peter Harholdt, 2004
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Photo by Peter Harholdt, 2004

  • Overview
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Hard-paste porcelain vessel in the form of a barrel: flat top and bottom surfaces, bulbous or swelling body, with raised bands to mimic the hoops of a wooden barrel. The side of the container is perforated at its widest diameter by a single large (1 3/8-inch diameter) circular opening, emphasized by an ornamental wreath. This aperture may have been used for filling the barrel, fitted with a cap, cover or cork. A smaller (less than 1-inch diameter) hole near the rim on one end may have served either for filling the barrel or been fitted with a spigot. None is present now. The barrel's surface is ornamented with clusters of polychrome floral motifs and overlaid with a clear glaze. The wooden frame that supports it has an open rectangular base on which the barrel rests. From each corner of this framework rises a small Tuscan column. The caps of the four columns form the supports for an open rectangular frame like that of the base. An urn with acorn finial rises from each of the four corners. The frame and the barrel it holds rolls and pivots on four low brass and wooden wheels. This frame appears to be contemporary to the barrel.

The barrel has been attributed to the factory in St. Denis, which had been established by the potter Pierre-Antoine Hannong from Strasbourg in 1771 (cf. S. Detweiler, "French Porcelain on Federal Tables," American Ceramic Circle Bulletin, No. 3).

Connection to Franklin
Believed to have been given to Franklin as a gift while he was in France
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