Scarce James II Silver Footed Salver at Toovey’s

James II Silver Chinoiserie Footed Salver at Toovey's Auction
James II Silver Chinoiserie Footed Salver to be offered at Toovey's Auction

Toovey’s forthcoming Specialist Sale of Silver on Wednesday 21st May 2014 includes a James II silver footed salver or tazza, flat-chased with a chinoiserie scene. This salver measures 34cm in diameter and is among the largest of its type. It is hallmarked for London 1688 by Benjamin Yate and carries a pre-sale estimate of £30,000-50,000.

Side View of Footed Salver
Side View of Footed Salver
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Detail of Chinoiserie Decoration
Hallmarks on James II Tazza
Hallmarks on James II Salver

Contextually, this piece was produced just twenty-two years after the Great Fire of London, following which an estimated four fifths of the city had to be rebuilt and, more importantly, countless homes refurnished. This is only five years after the English East India Company nearly went bankrupt after a ferocious price war with the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie) over market share. It is also  the same year as the so-called ‘Glorious Revolution’, with Prince William of Orange arriving with his army in November 1688. The footed salver was created during a period often referred to as England’s ‘Silver Age’. The higher production and quality of the pieces produced at the time ensure that items from the last quarter of the seventeenth century survive in surprisingly large numbers, spared from the melting pot for over four centuries.  The indulgence in the precious metal of the era was a reaction to and a celebration after the uncertain times preceding the reign of Charles II.

The influence of items originally imported from Asia by the Dutch East India Company had a huge impact. The fashion for anything Chinese swept across Europe, leaving a disparity between supply and demand. Manufacturers producing faux Chinese or ‘chinoiserie’ designs on pieces, including furniture and ceramics, became increasingly common. This piece is scarce because of its ornament; it is in stark contrast to the abundant embossed decoration more typical of the period. This distinctive chinoiserie decoration on silver is largely considered to have been undertaken at a single workshop between 1680 and 1688. It is speculated that only a few hundred pieces would have been decorated in this particular chinoiserie style. Perhaps the craftsman died, which would explain the small numbers and the distinct cut-off at the same date as this salver. Flat-chasing resembles the appearance of engraving but its creation uses the pressure of tools to make the delicate line, rather than digging away at the metal.

Today, it is largely believed that the designs were derived from a book written by Johan Nieuhoff, titled ‘Legatio Batavica Ad Magnum Tartariae Chamum Sungteium…’, first published in Amsterdam in 1668 with over 100 plates, plans and illustrations. It is certain that the decorator of the salver never travelled to Asia and probably used this book as inspiration, because the figures show the same ethnographic inaccuracies as Nieuhoff’s work.

While silver of this date does survive, examples of this type and quality are few and far between and seldom come to auction, unless part of an important silver collection. The consignment of this salver has a different story to tell. It was brought to Toovey’s reception with a few plated toast racks and valuer Will Rowsell recalls that the vendor did not even realize the salver was silver, let alone the importance of the piece. After consulting with Toovey’s silver specialist Tom Rowsell, the two brothers decided further research was required before offering a definitive opinion. Both were confident that the salver had all the indications of being an important piece of silver. The vendor had inherited the item from his father, an antiques dealer active in the middle part of the 20th century, but had never considered its value until recently. When reporting back to the vendor on the telephone, Tom recalls making sure they were sitting down before discussing the pre-sale valuation of £30,000-50,000!

The James II silver footed salver will be offered as Lot 350 in Toovey’s Specialist Sale of Silver on Wednesday 21st May 2014, commencing at 1pm. If you would like to have your silver valued, please contact our offices to discuss your requirements and the best way to proceed. This salver is proof that it is always worth checking an item’s value with the specialists at Toovey’s.

Hester Bateman, 18th Century Entrepreneur and Silversmith

As the Industrial Revolution burst into life during the 18th century, a new professional class emerged, marking the birth of the middle class. Success for members of this social group was accompanied by a desire to give expression to their new wealth and position in society.

In the 18th century they were often referred to as the ‘middling sort’ and among this diverse group were a number of lady entrepreneurs. It took the intuition of one particular lady to notice the potential demand from this emerging professional class for aspirational silver; her name was Hester Bateman. (1708-1794). Hester was the mother of six children. In 1760 her husband, John Bateman, a maker of gold chains, died of tuberculosis, leaving her his tools in his will. Hester took over the family business and began to make silver objects. In 1761 she registered her first maker’s hallmark, an ‘HB’ in script, with Goldsmiths Hall in London. By the mid-1770s she had significantly expanded her family firm. Bateman pieces were often pierced and punched from thin gauge silver sheets using machines. Industrial manufacturing techniques allowed the firm to compete with those making Sheffield Plate pieces.

A set of three George II silver graduated tea caddies or condiment vases and covers by Nicholas Sprimont, London 1743
A set of three George II silver graduated tea caddies or condiment vases and covers by Nicholas Sprimont, London 1743

The finest silver in the mid-18th century set fashions and tastes. Regular readers of this column will remember the part played by the Chelsea porcelain manufactory in establishing the rococo taste in England. Chelsea founder Nicholas Sprimont (1716-1771) was born in Liège and apprenticed as silversmith to his uncle Nicholas Joseph Sprimont. He came to England in 1742 and worked as a silversmith until he established the Chelsea factory in 1745. His work as a silversmith is of the highest quality and today examples are to be found in The Royal Collection. He worked in silver for such a short time that his silver objects are rare. Take, for example, this set of three George II silver graduated tea caddies or condiment vases and covers by Nicholas Sprimont. Each cover has a tapering, foliate knop finial above a fluted, undulating rim. The pentagonal lobed bodies have oval guilloche borders above later-engraved crests, inscribed ‘Feroci Fortior’. The reeded, tapering bases are raised on spiral-fluted, undulating pentagonal feet. Hallmarked in London in 1743, they measure between 15cm and 14cm high and sold in a Toovey’s specialist silver auction for £7600.

Silver sweetmeat basket by Hester Bateman
A George III silver sweetmeat basket by Hester Bateman, London 1784

For the emerging professional class, objects as fine as these Nicholas Sprimont caddies were out of reach. Hester Bateman and her sons, Peter and Jonathan, expanded their range to include items like sweetmeat baskets, jugs, tea caddies, salvers and salt cellars in the neoclassical style. In addition, they continued to produce silver tableware. The silver sweetmeat basket shown here, which realised £550 at Toovey’s, illustrates the characteristic bright-cut engraving and beaded decoration so typical of their output.

Hester Bateman retired in 1790 but the business continued under the direction of her sons and family. She died on 16th September 1794. Her work and achievements are applauded by silver collectors and social historians alike. As a true 18th century manufacturing entrepreneur of the Industrial Revolution, Hester Bateman challenges our contemporary perceptions of women’s place in Georgian society and deserves to be celebrated.

Today, English silver has become one of the boom markets at Toovey’s with interest from collectors throughout Britain and the rest of the world, including the newly emerging professional class of China. Hester Bateman pieces are particularly popular with collectors in America.

By Revd. Rupert Toovey. Originally published on 13th November 2013 in the West Sussex Gazette.

Worth the weight? ~ Rare silver sold at auction by Toovey’s

A rare Scottish provincial silver teaspoon, Stonehaven, circa 1840

There has been plenty of media attention recently regarding the price of precious metals as a commodity. Most newspapers and magazines will have an advert for a company offering to pay ‘top prices’ for gold and silver. Some companies have even resorted to pay for advertising on television to attract large quantities of precious metals. The government is also in the process of passing new laws to try and combat the rise in metal thefts. With prices for ‘scrap’ metal so high, many people overlook the antique object to literally cash-in on its more obvious intrinsic value in ounces. Toovey’s January auction of Antiques, Fine Art & Collectors’ Items included a privately entered single-owner collection of early English and Scottish provincial spoons and other silverware (Lots 350 to 394). The oldest example was a seal top spoon from 1580, made by Nicholas Bartholomew during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. One would hope, having survived this long, it was never in danger of ending up in the melting pot. Early pieces of silver have always been prized amongst collectors, this example was no exception, selling for £2000.

The rarest spoon in the collection however, was arguably a little less obvious. Lot 380 was a rare Scottish provincial Fiddle pattern teaspoon (illustrated above). Like many items of cutlery it was engraved with a previous owner’s initials ‘WSD’. As a provincial Scottish item it did not display the usual hallmarks one would associate with silver from England of the same date. English hallmarks generally would comprise of five marks: sterling, town of assay, date letter, maker’s mark and sovereign’s head. Instead it was marked ‘A.G, S, T, O, N, H, N’ (illustrated below). The ‘A.G.’ is the maker’s mark for Alexander Glenny, the remaining combination of letters indicate that the spoon was made at Stonehaven where Glenny worked circa 1840. This is of particular importance as it is one of the rarest of all Scottish provincial town marks. As Toovey’s catalogue stated, items of Stonehaven silver that can be confidently ascribed are extremely rare with only a handful known to survive. Only items with this combination of marks should be considered of definite Stonehaven manufacture. Because of this collectable mark and its rarity, this 13.5cm long teaspoon attracted the interest of commission and telephone bidders, but finally sold in the room against this competition for £2900. Being a teaspoon it weighed very little, just 13 grams – if it had been condemned to the melting pot on its weight alone, one would have received under £10 for it at the current prices paid for silver. Thus, reinforcing the importance of checking the collectable and rarity value of silver and gold with our team of specialist valuers before ‘cashing-in’ on an object’s scrap value. If you would like to organise a free pre-sale valuation of your silver, please do not hesitate to contact Toovey’s for more information.

Stonehaven silver marks on the rare teaspoon