The English fashion for drinking beer in silver-mounted stoneware jugs was at its peak when this tigerware example was made. The stonewares were imported to England from the Rhenish potting centres of Frechen and Cologne for everyday use; however, it was a peculiar custom to mount these useful vessels with valuable silver mounts. The dark grey colour of the jug's stoneware body combined with the orange-peel texture of the salt-glaze are characteristic elements of wares crafted in Frechen during the mid-16th century. It is widely thought that the salt-glaze resulted from throwing salt into the kiln at the time of firing. Conversley, David Gaimster argues that this unique texture is due to the particular "quartz-sand structure of the clay" found in Frechen (D. Gaimster, German Stoneware 1200 - 1900 Archaeology and Cultural History, London, 1977, p. 208).
The engraved strapwork, chased lion masks and clusters of fruit on the silver mounts are characteristic of the English Renaissance style. It is difficult to attribute maker's marks prior to the establishment of the Goldsmiths' Company records in 1697 as the earliest records of gold and silversmiths no longer survive. Although the maker's mark on this example is unascribable, Ambrose Heal's list of London Goldsmiths 1200 - 1800 lists one possible match: goldsmith Richard Robins (or Robyns), who worked in London in 1552 and from 1568 until his death in 1577 (A. Heal, The London Goldsmiths, 1200 - 1800: A Record of the Names and Addresses of the Craftsmen, Their Shop-signs and Trade-cards, London, 1972, p. 233).
The vulnerable nature of the stoneware combined with the fine silver mounts contributes to the rarity of this piece. It was once a part of the William Randolph Hearst collection, amassed by the American newspaper magnate through New York auction rooms and galleries as well as on trips abroad. He was an avid collector and in a letter to his mother on 4th August 1895 Hearst wrote, "I have been in Munich for several days... and I have bought beer mugs for myself and beer mugs for presents until there are only a few left in town and they are retained by the shopkeepers as souvenirs" (V. Kastner and J. Seely, 'San Simeon's Collection of Ceremonial Objects', The Magazine Antiques, April, 2002). A portion of Hearst's collection was sold by Parke-Bernet Galleries in January 1939 including the present lot.
Cecil Bisshopp Harmsworth, 1st Baron Harmsworth is remembered as a Liberal politician, but his elder brothers Alfred Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe and Harold Sydney Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere were successful newspaper proprietors. Viscount Rothermere donated a gift of early English silver to the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. Included in this gift is a Mary I tigerware jug, which was once a part of the William Randolph Hearst collection sold Christie's London 14 December 1938.