Charlotte Florentia, Duchess of Northumberland (1787-1866), Christie's Images
Charlotte Florentia, Duchess of Northumberland, designed this plateau for the Adam-decorated interiors of Alnwick Castle, described in 1822 as "in the gayest and most elegant style of Gothick architecture." A five-section plateau of matching design was ordered in 1818 from silversmith Edward Thomason of Birmingham, whose Memoirs describe the commission: "At this period (1818/19) I was honoured with an order from the Duke of Northumberland, to manufacture for his Grace a silver plateau, thirty-three feet in length. The elevated edge or border was of the highest classical taste, and, as I was informed, designed by the Duchess; it was adapted for the long dining-room at Alnwick Castle . . . ." (v.I. p. 170) See A. H. Westwood et al., Birmingham Gold & Silver, 1973, for an illustration of one of the parts of the Alnwick plateau - there were additions of 1841 - and the quotations above, cat. nos. B2 and B3.
The Duchess' design employs a distinctive and subtle integration of heraldry and decoration. The use of the strawberry leaves of a Duke's coronet as a decorative motif is unique, and instead of employing the full armorials, traditionally either applied or engraved, the scattering of emblems from the Percy badge is also very individual. The Duchess was a talented artist, and published Castles of Alnwick and Warkworth, etc., from Sketches by Charlotte Florentia, Duchess of Northumberland in 1824.
Unlike the Alnwick plateau, the present example was made in London by Royal Goldsmith Phillip Rundell, and used at Northumberland House. It was almost certainly among those described in the 1847 Northumberland House inventory as follows:
p. 195: Service of costly silver and silver gilt plate at Messrs Garrards
Chest No 1: 9 pieces of Plateau
(Archives of the Duke of Northumberland, Syon Manuscript H.VIII.1.b, Inventory of Plate at Northumberland House, 1847)
There were at least two additional small circular plateaux made in London for the 3rd Duke in 1828 (marked by John Bridge, sold Christie's New York, 22 February 1980, lot 23) which probably made up part of the nine pieces of plateaux in the 1847 inventory.