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Oblong and on two couchant leopard and two couchant lion feet, the front with central long compartment with hinged cover flanked by two square compartments, one containing a detachable sander, the other an inkpot, the back with a long oblong compartment with hinged cover, fitted between with two detachable tapersticks each formed from addorsed standing putti each on an auricular plinth, their arms raised to support a foliate drip-pan and socket, the tapersticks flanked by small square compartments with hinged covers each with a detachable cylindrical container, all the hinged covers with baluster finials, the sides and covers chased with intricate auricular ornament of scrolls, cartouches and grotesque masks, the back compartment chased on the cover with allegorical scene representing Geometry and Arithmetic, the ends with Astronomy and Grammar and with Music to the front, the back with two classical scenes, one of Dialectic with Mercury, the other of Rhetoric, the centre of the base chased with a cartouche flanked by standing putti, later engraved with a coat-of-arms within foliage mantling, the back of the long compartment later engraved with a coat of arms, the sander and inkpot compartment covers later engraved with a cypher, marked inside the long compartment, the underside with scratchweight 147 [oz.], the tapersticks 15 [oz.] and 1? [oz.] 4 [dwt.], the cylindrical containers 12 [dwt.], 12 [dwt.], 15 [dwt.], 15[dwt.], the sander 3 [oz.] and the inkpot 4 [oz.] 6 [dwt.]
16 ½ in. (42 cm.) long, 15 ½ in. (39.5 cm.) wide, 10 ¼ in. (26 cm.) high
171 oz. 12 dwt. (5,337 gr.)
The coat-of-arms on the back of the inkstand is that of Craggs, for James Craggs (1657-1721), M.P., post-master general and investor.
The coat-of-arms in the centre of the inkstand is that of Cotton with Craggs in pretence, for Sir John Hynde Cotton 3rd Bt. (1686-1752) of Madingley, Cambridgeshire and his wife Margaret, daughter of James Craggs (1657-1721), and widow of Samuel Trefusis. Sir John and Margaret were married in 1724.
James Craggs (1657-1721), post-master general and investor, by descent to his daughter,
Margaret Craggs, who married of Samuel Trefusis and later Sir John Hynde Cotton 3rd Bt. (1686-1752) of Madingley, Cambridgeshire, in 1724, by descent in the family to,
Sir St. Vincent Cotton, 6th Bt. of Madingley, Cambridgeshire, by descent to his sister,
Maria Susanna Cotton (d.1871), second wife of Admiral Sir John King 2nd Bt. (1774-1834), sold after 1870 to,
James Stewart Hodgson (1827-1899), banker and collector, The Manor House, Hazelmere, Surrey,
J. Stewart Hodgson; Christie's, London, 5 June 1893, lot 383 (£446 to Boore).
With William Boore, 54 The Strand, London.
Walter Spencer Morgan Burns (1872–1929), North Mymms Park, co. Hertford, art collector and nephew of J. P. Morgan, presumably purchased by him and then by descent to his son,
Major General Sir George Burns (1911-1997), North Mymms Park, co. Hertford,
Major General Sir George Burns K.C.V.O., C.B., D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C.; Christie’s, London, 1 July 1970, lot 122.
Acquired by Cyril Humphris, London; to the previous owner, thence by descent.
Cotton Family Archive, Volume containing inventories of the contents of Madingley Hall, ‘An Inventory of the Plate, 1737’, 1737, ‘Standish’.
Cotton Family Archive, Volume containing inventories of the contents of Madingley Hall, ‘An Inventory of the Plate in January 1762’, 1762, ‘Other Plate, 1 Large old silver standish’.
Cotton Family Archive, Volume containing inventories of the contents of Madingley Hall, ‘Inventory of the Plate taken at Madingley’, June 1766, ‘Other Plate, 1 Large old Silver Standish’.
Cotton Family Archive, Inventory of plate at Madingley Hall, circa 1775, ‘Other Plate, A large old silver stand dish’.
Cotton Family Archive, Letter of Messrs Clayton and Co. of King Street, St. Jamess to Sir John Hynde Cotton Bt. about intended sale of remaining plate, 13 January 1778, ‘a Stand Dish’.
Cotton Family Archive, Letter of Messrs Clayton and Co. of King Street, St. Jamess to Sir John Hynde Cotton Bt. about intended sale of remaining plate 13 January 1778, a Stand Dish, retunrd [sic., in later hand]’.
Cotton Family Archive, Valuation of plate at Childs Bank, 20 September 1870, ‘Reserved, Inkstand, highly chased, bust & sconces, 147. 15/- £110 5s’.
Christie’s Review of the Year 1969/1970, London, 1970, pp. 204-5.
M. Clayton, The Collectors Dictionary of the Silver and Gold of Great Britain and North America, Woodbridge, 1971, p. 215.
J. R. ter Molen, Van Vianen, een Utrechtse familie van zilversmeden met een internationale faam, Leiderdorp, 1984, vol. 1, p. 61. & vol. II.
M. Clayton, Christies Pictorial History of English and American Silver, Oxford, 1985, p. 61, fig. 13.
T. Schroder, The National Trust Book of English Domestic Silver, 1500-1900, Harmondsworth, 1988, p. 88.
R. Baarsen, Courts and Colonies, The William and Mary Style in Holland, England and America, 1988, p. 139.
R. Lightbown, ‘Charles I and the Art of the Goldsmith’ in A. MacGregor ed., The Late Kings Goods, Oxford, 1989, p. 240, fig. 81.
P. Glanville, Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England, A Social History, 1480-1660, London, 1990, pp. 85, 88, fig. 33.
A. Gruber, The History of the Decorative Arts, Classicism and the Baroque in Europe, vol. 2, New York, 1996, pp. 50 and 90.
P. Glanville, Silver in England, London, 2013, p. 232.
London, The Victoria and Albert Museum, long term loan until 2021.
Sale room notice
Additional provenance:
Major General Sir George Burns K.C.V.O., C.B., D.S.O., O.B.E., M.C.; Christie’s, London, 1 July 1970, lot 122.
Acquired by Cyril Humphris, London; to the previous owner, thence by descent.

Lot Essay

Christiaen (c.1601–1667), born in Utrecht between 1600 and 1605, was the son of the celebrated goldsmith Adam van Vianen (1568/69–1627), who with his brother Paulus (1570-1614) had developed their unique style, which in England came to be known as the Auricular style. It is characterized by the sinuous ear-like motifs, fluid masks and grotesque figures which envelop the pieces they ornament. It was in great contrast to the highly mannered and detailed style of the late Renaissance which preceded it. It has been suggested that the philosophical concept of the style was based on the Platonic belief that all metals were once liquids, which over time had solidified within the earth. Adam and Paulus created the style but it was Christiaen who ensured its influence was felt across Europe through the engraving and subsequent publishing of his father's drawings. He commissioned Theodor van Kessel to create a book of his father's designs, Modelli Artificiosi di Vasi diversi d'argento et altre Opere capriciozi in the 1640s, the plates of which were later republished in 1650 as Artful Models of Various Silver Vases and Other Capricious Work, invented and drawn by the Respected Adam van Vianen, consisting of 48 plates, published by his son Christiaen van Vianen in Utrecht, and engraved in Copper by Theodor van Kessel. Though these drawings and his own work Christiaen led the next generation of artists and craftsmen working in the Auricular style, such as Johannes I Lutma (1584–1669) and Thomas Bogaert (c.1597–1653). The popularity and influence of the style led to it being adapted to the carving of picture frames, ornamental iron work and furniture, in addition to highly sophisticated works in silver.

In common with his uncle Paulus, goldsmith at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II in Prague, and in contrast to his Utrecht based father, Christiaen travelled to work at the court of King Charles I of England and Scotland (1625-1649). His name is first record in the Calendar of State Papers in 1630 when he was granted a pension of £30 by the King. He must have returned to Utrecht by 1631 and remained there until 1632 as he submitted a tazza for assay in 1631 and a magnificent ewer and basin in 1632. The ewer and basin were once in the collection of the Duke of Sussex and are now on loan the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. It is evident that he had returned to England by 1633 when he is recorded as having been paid by the King for a single candlestick and given the very sizable gift of £100 in recognition of costs incurred by his move to London. The candlestick was so prized by the King that it was displayed in his cabinet rooms in Whitehall Palace, together with his collection of small paintings and sculptures. Christaen was to remain in England working for the King and the aristocracy until 1643. He returned following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

It was Christiaen's skill as a chaser that was highly prized by the king. A warrant in the State Papers dated 16 February 1636 records the payment to Christiaen ‘for a bason and ewer of silver by him delivered his Majesty in June last, beaten with the hammer, and for sundry other particulars, 336l. 11s. 6d., according to a certificate subscribed by the Earl of Arundel and Surrey’. The reference to the piece having been ‘beaten with the hammer’ acknowledges van Vianen’s skill as a chaser and the contemporary belief that chased work was far superior to casting works in a mould. The magnificent Dolphin Basin, unmarked but signed ‘C. d. Vianen fecit’, now in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (V M.1-1918) gives an idea of the richness and originality of the ewer and basin supplied to the King. Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel (1585-1646) whose name appears on the warrant for the king’s ewer and basin is thought to have been influential in Christiaen’s appointment as a goldsmith to the king. Perhaps Christiaen's largest known commission during his first period in England was for the chapel plate for the Order of the Garter commissioned by the King for St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. Tragically stolen in 1642 and presumed destroyed, the service is recorded to have consisted of ‘Two great Silver and guilt Candlesticks and two Covers of Bookes of Silver and guilt chac't [chased] wth Histories, weighing 972 ounces’ for the use of his said Matties Royall Chappell of St George att Windsor…', ‘two great Flaggons Silver and guilt chact [chased] as abovesd [abovesaid, i.e. with Histories] and ‘Three Basons’, together with chalices and patens and two smaller flagons.

A contemporary view of the service is provided by the antiquarian Elias Ashmole (1617-1692) in his The Institution, Laws & Ceremonies of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, first published 1672, p. 492. ‘Christian Van Vianan of Utrect [sic.], a man excellently skilled in chasing of Plate: and to give him due praise in this undertaking, he discovered a rare ingenuity and happy fancy, as the skilful did judge while the Plate was in being, and the designs of each piece yet to be seen (among the present Sovereign’s rare collection of Draughts and Sketches) can sufficiently manifest’.

The engraved coats-of-arms record its 18th century history, when it was first owned the M.P. and Post-Master General James Craggs (1657-1721). Originally a clothier to the army, he had risen to prominence as first as agent to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744) and later as an investor and speculator. He amassed a great fortune and was a stock holder in the East India and South Sea Companies, but liquidated his holding in the South Sea Company before the notorious crash in 1720. Even though the government confiscated all the wealth he had amassed between 1719 and his death he is still thought to have left an estate in excess of £1.5 million. His properties and chattels passed to his three daughters. The inkstand was inherited by Margaret, who married the Jacobite baronet Sir John Hynde Cotton 3rd Bt. (1686-1752) as her second husband in 1724. Recent research in the family archives has revealed the inkstand (or standish) in the inventories of the family plate taken from 1737 onwards. Described as an ‘old standish’ it was sent for sale in 1778 to James Clayton of King Street, however, it was returned to the family until sold towards the end of the 19th to the celebrated collector and banker James Stewart Hodgson (1827-1899), who later sold it at Christie’s in 1893. It then entered the collection of J. P. Morgan’s nephew Walter Spencer Morgan Burns (1872–1929) who formed a celebrated collection of early works of art at North Mymms Park. Herefordshire. When it was sold by his sold Major General Sir George Burns at Christie’s in 1970 it fetched a world record £78,000, almost twice the previous record price for a lot of silver sold at auction.

This extraordinary inkstand is not only a magnificent example of an exceeding rare 17th century form, but also a virtuoso display of the finest chasing of the time. Monumental in size, it is over twice the weight of the largest standishes recorded in the surviving records of the Royal Jewel House for the period. Struck with the mark of the London assay master and goldsmith Alexander Jackson (d.1670), the chasing is of a standard and inventiveness not seen in the work of London goldsmiths at the time. The quality of the chasing, in the auricular style, the originality of the allegorical scenes and the sophistication of its conception, all point to the Utrecht born silversmith Christiaen van Vianen and his workshop as the authors of the piece. The arms engraved on the inkstand record the ownership of the piece from the early 18th century, however the original patron remains unknown. The complex and intellectual iconography of the inkstand or standish and its creation by a foreign goldsmith who was employed by the King, points to either a royal patron or a high standing member of the Court, such as the Earl of Northumberland, for whom van Vianen is known to have worked. Two pieces by him survived in the Northumberland collection. Aristocratic collectors of Dutch works of art, such as the Earl of Arundel and Lord Dorchester might also have employed van Vianen to create the piece.

The fact that the inkstand is hallmarked, having been submitted to the Goldsmiths' Company on behalf of van Vianen by a London goldsmith, suggests the latter group of possible patrons is more likely, as the Royal Jewel House did not necessarily submit work for assay and marking at the Goldsmiths' Hall. The sponsoring of Christiaen van Vianen’s work and that of other foreign goldsmiths was a known practice. London goldsmiths, such as Alexander Jackson, would submit foreigners' work as only freemen of the Goldsmiths' Company were entitled to have silver assayed and hallmarked. This is illustrated by a document in the collection of the Marquess of Salisbury at Hatfield House, published by Philippa Glanville, op. cit., 1990, p. 88, fig 32, in which van Vianen agrees to have ‘new plate marked and touched whereby it may appear to be equal with the standard’. Recent research by Charles Truman published in Silver Studies, The Journal of the Silver Society, no. 35, 2019, pp. 83-87, suggests that Christiaen had been able to register a mark with the Goldsmiths' Company by 1640, the date of a beautiful auricular cup, now on loan to Waddesdon Manor from the Rothschild family collection. It is struck with the mark, CV above a wheel, being the initials of the maker and the wheel a play on the Latin via (road).

The sophisticated and intellectual theme of the inkstand, the Seven Liberal Arts, was first conceived in the middle-ages. It referred to the areas of study that were deemed necessary to attain an education that was grounded in classical antiquity. Based on direct observation rather than classical accounts, these subjects were divided into two categories: the trivium (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music). These subjects, usually pictorially represented by female personifications carrying attributes to aid identification, became popular themes for allegorical engravings throughout Europe, but especially in the Netherlands in the late 16th century and early 17th century, by such artists as Hendrick Goltzius (1558-1617), Cornelis Cort (c.1533-c.1578), Hieronymus Cock (1518-1570) and Cornelis Boel (c.1576-c.1621).

In the years 1600-1650, printmaking benefited from a growing demand for artistic imagery. It is notable that the absence of professional printmakers in the city of Utrecht led to the commission for a panoramic profile of the city being given to Christiaen’s father, the artist and silversmith Adam Van Vianen. Adam, his brother Paulus and his son Christiaen were all celebrated for their originality and inventiveness. The scenes created by Christiaen for the altar plate he made for Charles I, discussed below, were original compositions, the drawings for which were preserved by the King in his art collection. Therefore, it is not surprising that the scenes on the Seven Liberal Arts Inkstand appear to be original compositions, rather than being based on existing print sources. Parallels can be seen with works by contemporary artists such Cornelis Boel's, Allegory, but the details and compositional arrangements and van Vianen’s own, echoing the highly prized work of his father and uncle.

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