In 1927 the Art Institute of Chicago acquired half of the important Jacques Mühsam Collection of European glass. A highly successful Berlin cotton fabric manufacturer in the firm of Mühsam and Goldschmidt, Jacques Mühsam (1857–1930) seriously collected in many areas of the decorative arts; in addition to glass, he acquired German porcelain, faience (tin-glazed earthenware decorated with colored glazes), Gobelin tapestries, and other textiles. The Mühsam Collection of glass eventually numbered over 700 pieces, ranging in date from the 15th to the 19th century, and was recorded in two handsome volumes by Robert Schmidt that were published in Berlin in 1914 and 1926, respectively. At the time of the collection’s sale, the founder of Berlin’s Kaiser Friedrich Museum, Wilhelm Bode, called it “the choicest and most valuable private collection in existence. . . . Even the great museums can only rival the Mühsam Collection in certain special cases.” Because of its size, the collection was divided between the Art Institute and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Chicagoans Julius and Augusta Rosenwald made the acquisition of the Art Institute’s half possible.
The Art Institute also greatly benefited from the purchase of objects from the collection of the financier J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913). Much of his silver was sold at auction in the late 1940s, and the Art Institute took full advantage of these sales, purchasing a number of early silver wine vessels.
Mark of John Spilman, silversmith. The Whitfield Cup, 1590. England, London. The Mary Swissler Oldberg Memorial Fund.