The newly renovated French Salon provides an opulent setting for nearly one hundred French silver objects, showcasing the craftsmanship of silversmiths who worked in Paris and provincial French cities from the late 16th through the early 19th centuries. Installed in thematic groupings throughout the room, the silver objects on view—all from the MFA’s Elizabeth Parke Firestone and Harvey S. Firestone Jr. Collection—include works made for royal, domestic, and ecclesiastical purposes.
Perhaps even more than other decorative arts objects, silver works carry physical evidence of their creation and subsequent lives. The raw material of silver is evident, and the signs of the many hands that processed it still remain: stamped marks tell the story of the artists, the tax collectors who evaluated quality, and the town guild where the pieces were made. In some instances, subsequent owners engraved their coats of arms, inventory numbers, or initials. One incredible object in particular—an exquisite sauceboat by the star Parisian silversmith of the mid-18th century, François-Thomas Germain—has a fascinating history tracing back to the mining of raw material in South America.
The space that houses the silver is itself presented as a museum object. It is a “period room,” but it cannot in fact be pinned down to one specific period; an in-depth restoration campaign that began in 2018 yielded a stunning finding that half the space dates to 18th-century France and the other half to early 20th-century New York. Visitors can explore its journey—beginning in France; moving to New York, where it was part of a Fifth Avenue mansion owned by businessman William Salomon; and ending in Boston, where it entered the MFA’s collection nearly one hundred years ago.
- Elizabeth Parke Firestone and Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. Memorial Room (Gallery 141A)