Visual Description :
Brass and copper coal scuttle with J.M. Whistler butterfly motif on lid; organic/botanical design on the side. Combines Arts and Crafts style in design of scuttle with beginnings of Art Nouveau design on the sides.
The frame and legs are cast in brass, which provides a strong framework, while the infilling panels are of softer and more workable copper. Taking pride of place beside a hearth, the warm tones of the copper and brass would have provided a rich reflective surface for the firelight.
Decorative detailing on the side appears to be an abstracted seed pod or leaf. Botanical forms such as honesty leaves were a frequent theme used by Arts and Crafts designers, as a way of connecting the home with nature outdoors. On the lid, the motif appears similar to the stylized butterfly signature adopted by the Aesthetic Movement painter James McNeill Whistler. While there is no provenance to connect this work with the famous painter, nor do its surfaces bear any shopmarks to identify its workshop of origin, an interesting coincidence is that during the last year of his life, Whistler leased the Chelsea home of C.R. Ashbee, a prominent Arts and Crafts movement designer whose works appear elsewhere in this collection.32
32 Sadakichi Hartmann, The Whistler Book; A Monograph of the Life and Position in Art of James McNeill Whistler, (Boston: L. C. Page & Company, 1910), 36.