Like the work of the turner Joseph Long Lehn (1798-1892) of Lancaster County, the spice cups produced by the Stiehlys follow earlier Continental prototypes but exhibit a more pronounced stylistic tie to early-nineteenth-century neoclassicism in their urn-shaped turned forms and rims painted with undulating swag-pattern borders. Elizabeth's preference for overlapping fruit and floral compositions and her subtle methods of gradated shading also suggest her possible familiarity with the techniques of brushed and stenciled theorem paintings on velvet and tin popular during the early Victorian period.2 The four main floral vignettes she conceived to decorate the sides of this cup depict four different stages of development and maturity in the flowers and fruit of the strawberry, while the primroses separating these compositions are nearly identical, having been laid out with compass and point prior to their being painted. -J.L.L.
1 Henry M. Reed, who has conducted extensive studies on the decorated furniture and early craftsmen present in the Mahantango Valley, suggests that Isaac Stiehly may also have been an accomplished scrivener and fraktur artist; see Reed, "Finding the Fabulous Furniture of the Mahantango Valley," Pennsylvania Heritage 21, no. 4 (fall 1995): 24.
2 A closely related covered cup by these artists was sold at Sotheby's sale 7025 (10/97, lot 26). Together the cups help substantiate the later stylistic patterns embraced by the Stiehlys.
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