Tuesday 31 October, 2017

European Silver in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen

More than half a ton of silver has been conserved ahead of the publication of a new book by the Royal Collection. 

Published on 2 November 2017, European Silver in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen is the first title for over 100 years to catalogue the magnificent holdings of silverware originating from Europe in the Royal Collection.

Some of the most intricate and opulent items to feature in the catalogue raisonné are those collected by George IV for his Kunstkammer, a special collection of extremely fine works, many of which can be see in the Lantern Lobby of Windsor Castle today. In 1823 George purchased the spectacular Nautilus cup and cover, with an unusually large shell and elaborate mount featuring figures of Jupiter, Neptune, a hippocamp and four double-tailed mermaids playing instruments. The cup and cover weighs almost 4kg and stands over half a metre high.

During conservation for the catalogue, a boat-shaped silver and gold inkstand, c.1810 acquired by Queen Mary when Duchess of York was found to be a musical instrument, with a winding mechanism concealed within a seal. The size of the seal limits the range of musical notes available, but the tune it plays is thought to be a popular refrain of the time. The inkstand bears the maker's mark of Stuttgart court goldsmith Johann Christian Sick.

The publication also includes an elaborate silver gilt tea service, commissioned as a wedding gift by Napoleon Bonaparte for his adopted daughter Stéphanie de Beauharnais, who married Prince Charles of Baden on 7 April 1806. Other gifts highlighted in the catalogue include a silver, gilt and enamel centrepiece presented to Queen Victoria by her children and grandchildren on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee. Weighing over 40kg, the base of the centrepiece is engraved 'to a beloved mother and grandmother Queen Victoria in remembrance of the 50th anniversary of her reign'. Each of the children and grandchildren's coat of arms is engraved upon a lobe on a vase in the middle of the centrepiece, and Queen Victoria later recorded in her journal that she thought it 'a very handsome piece of plate'.

European Silver in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen is written by Kathryn Jones, Senior Curator of Decorative Arts, Royal Collection Trust. The catalogues raisonnés are produced in line with Royal Collection Trust’s responsibilities to care for, conserve and publish the Royal Collection, raising awareness and increasing knowledge of its remarkable holdings. 

The Goldsmiths' Company is delighted to support this publication.

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