This highly unusual item is of South American workmanship but emulates a Chinese implement – a pan iron, commonly used in China by being fill with hot coals and then run over silk to iron the silk of creases. Chinese pan irons typically were made of bronze. This example, made of high-grade, solid silver, probably was made to carry coals as part of the process of brewing mate, the indigenous, tea-like brew.
The hinged lid is engraved with a roundel filled with a chrysanthemum-like flower. The sides of the pan are engraved with cartouches infilled with floating ducks. The front of the pan is decorated with an engraved ‘Shu’ or Chinese long-life symbol. The renderings of all these motifs are somewhat naive and are certainly not the product of Chinese craftsmen but almost certainly South American silversmith perhaps copying from motifs on imported Chinese porcelain.
The long handle is smooth and unadorned. A cast foot extends from the handle to better steady the device.
No similar item of South American silver appears to have been published.
The item has a splendid patina, and the silver has the ‘rawness’ associated with high-grade, freshly-mined South American silver of the eighteenth century.
Latin America/Latin American
Davis Boylan, L., Spanish Colonial Silver, Museum of New Mexico Press, 1974.
Luis Ribera, A., & H.H. Schenone, Plateria Sudamericana de los Siglos XVII-XX, Hirmer Verlag Muchen, 1981.