Workshop of JOHN SKILLIN (1746–1800) and SIMEON SKILLIN, JR. (1757–1806)
Figure of “Plenty”
Wood, probably White Pine, gessoed and painted white
Boston, c. 1790
The fully articulated painted, carved-wood, standing sculpture of “Plenty,” draped in flowing robes and with a laurel wreath on her head is holding a cornucopia (horn of plenty) issuing fruit, standing on a molded rectangular plinth.
Published: Sylvia Leistyna Lahvis, “The Skillin Workshop and the Language of Spectacle” Winterthur Museum Journal, Vol. 27, No. 4 (Winter, 1992), pp. 213-233.
Condition: An approximately 3 inch piece of the narrow end of the cornucopia is broken off and missing. There are old breaks at the crook of the figure’s proper left arm and at the base of the fingers of her left hand. These brakes have been restored by a conservator. There are small losses to the upper-most point of her garment and to laurel leaves at the back of the head on both right and left sides. There is a very old loss and repair to the proper right corner of the plinth. There is a cluster of small nail holes on the back of Plenty’s garment where the figure was attached to a wall.
In the second half on the 18th century, the Skillin brothers were the preeminent carvers of the city of Boston. According to Sylvia Lahvis, “they fashioned figureheads, stern board figures, scrolls, brackets and catheads for ships of the Continental Navy and the United States Navy, merchant ships and privateers; They also carved emblematic busts and figures for the homes and gardens of the wealthiest merchants in coastal Massachusetts.”
A related allegorical figure, possibly of “Peace,” attributed to the Skillins, is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Accession Number: 10.125.81c). The wood sculpture of “Plenty” is also closely related to an allegorical figure of Hope, attributed to the Skillins, also gessoed and painted white, in the collection at Winterthur Museum, as well as a figure of “Pamona” at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. Plenty also relates to the reclining figure of Plenty and America, documented to the Skillins, on the chest-on-chest made by Stephen Badlam for Elias Hasket Derby in 1791 (now at the Yale University Art Gallery). In the same year, Derby commissioned the Skillins to carve the figurehead and other decorations for his ship, Grand Turk, one of the largest ships built in America at the time. Two years later, Derby, who also patronized the great Salem carver Samuel McIntire, commissioned ornamental carved figures from the Skillins for his new home including a hermit, a shepherdess, a gardener and a figure representing Plenty. It is not known if this sculpture of Plenty is that figure. The relatively flat contour of the figure’s back suggests that it may have been made to be placed against a wall and/or above a door.
Surviving examples of the work of these important artists are exceedingly rare.
Hirschl & Adler Galleries
 Pauline A Pinckney, American Figureheads and their Carvers (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1940), 55.