The Portland Art Museum’s silver collection is the result of the generosity of Portland community members. William H. Nunn and his wife Alice gave their private silver collection to the Museum and, in 1955, established a fund to support ongoing acquisitions. Henry Failing Cabell’s 1972 bequest added considerable depth to the collection, with rare treasures such as an Elizabethan silver-gilt bell salt. In 1982, Anna Wheeler Hayes gave the Museum her collection of the intriguing sauce vessels known as “argylls.” Updating the impressive historical collection are the more recent gifts of Margo Grant Walsh, whose extensive collection focused on the Arts and Crafts movement.
For many years, the Museum’s extraordinary collection of silver art was a “buried treasure,” ironically known better by scholars in the field than by many residents of Portland. The Museum’s new gallery allows for the display of more than 100 pieces from this collection, which ranges from a 15th-century drinking bowl to a mid-Victorian silver tea service. The collection also includes a spectacular Rococo cup and cover with maker’s marks of Lewis Herne and Francis Butty, and a fascinating neoclassical centerpiece marked by John Scofield.
The installation of the Museum’s Silver gallery has been generously supported by Max R. and Suzanne M. Millis and the Henry Luce Foundation.