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A HIGHLY IMPORTANT PAIR OF WILLIAM AND MARY SILVER ROYAL WALL SCONCES
A HIGHLY IMPORTANT PAIR OF WILLIAM AND MARY SILVER ROYAL WALL SCONCES

LONDON, CIRCA 1690

Details
A HIGHLY IMPORTANT PAIR OF WILLIAM AND MARY SILVER ROYAL WALL SCONCES London, circa 1690 Each with a cast shaped oval wall plate formed as a baroque cartouche framed by scrolls, fronds, and gadrooning and chased with fish-scale, surmounted by a Royal crown, the cast openwork center panel with a mask of Diana, goddess of the moon against a sunburst, above scrolling foliate decoration, the candelarm formed as a gadrooned scroll issuing from paired acanthus leaves suspending a garland of fruit, the wax-pan and socket circular, with gadrooning, apparently unmarked 8 in. (20.95 cm.) high; arm 9 in. (24.13 cm.) long; 54 oz. (1682 gr.) (2)
Provenance
Brand Inglis
Literature
Harold Newman, An Illustrated Dictionary of Silverware, London, 1987, illus. p. 347
Exhibited
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1994, The Taste for Luxury: English Furniture, Silver and Ceramics 1690-1790

Lot Essay

Like silver furniture, silver wall sconces are some of the rarest survivals of silver from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Their scarcity today however is in contrast to their popularity in the years following the Restoration in 1660, when the excessive use of candles in great houses throughout England was remarked upon by foreign visitors. The present sconces appear to be those described as "Sun Sconces" at Kensington Palace in the 1721 inventory of silver in the royal palaces which is the only surviving record of English royal silver during the eighteenth century. The inventory itemizes a total of 195 silver sconces ranging from "Chimney sconces" averaging around 16 oz. each, to "picture sconces" weighing many times that amount and probably incorporating chased or cast scenes, such as a set of six made for George Booth, 2nd Earl of Warrington, of which a pair are in the collection of the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts and four are at Dunham Massey, the Earl's house in Cheshire.

Many of the royal sconces listed in the 1721 inventory were disposed of by the court in 1808 along with other royal plate to finance the Princess of Wales's separate establishment. The present sconces, however, appear to have remained in the royal collection, where they appear in an inventory compiled in 1832 by the court goldsmiths, Rundell and Bridge, of silver at Windsor Castle, described as "two small oval sconces with chased heads of Diana." These were no longer in the royal collection by 1911 (E. Alfred Jones, The Gold and Silver of Windsor Castle, 1911, p. xxvii).

Many of the motifs on these sconces, such as the classical fluted sockets and the shape of the cartouches, derive from the printed design sources of Daniel Marot (1661-1752), especially his Nouveaux Livre d'Orfvrerie. From 1690 onwards, Queen Mary undertook extensive remodelling at Kensington Palace and it is tempting to suggest that these sconces formed part of the original decorative scheme.

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