THE ORNAMENT AND FORM
The Pocklington Cup is distinguished by the fine engraved decoration on the bowl, which Schroder suggests might be influenced by work of the Flemish born engraver Nicasius Roussel (fl.1570-1620). He is thought to have come to London in around 1570. The cover and the foot are chased with floral garlands which Schroder notes were from the established decorative vocabulary of the time and had been in circulation for some twenty years. Similar engraving can be found on a cup which now belongs to Kings Nympton Church, Devon illustrated in Sir Charles Jackson's, An Illustrated History of English Plate, London, 1911, fig. 453. Another related cup is the Lee Cup dated 1590, which belongs to the Corporation of the City of Portsmouth, Jackson, op. cit., p.184. Parallels can also be drawn between the present lot and the Hutton Cup, also of 1589, attributed to John Spilman, traditionally held as having been the wedding gift of Queen Elizabeth I to Elizabeth Bowes in 1592, now in the Royal Collection. Both are engraved with the same foliate ornament emerging from urns or vases. It has a very similar stem and finial. A cup, of 1585, with similar finely engraved ornament is in the Armoury Collection housed in the Kremlin, Moscow, illustrated here. Charles Oman, keeper of Metalwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum, described the Kremlin cup in his The English Silver in the Kremlin 1557-1663, London, 1961, p. 44. as '...the most beautiful in the collection...[it] serves to emphasize that although English goldsmiths were perhaps too prone to turn out endless variations of the design of the decade, they were capable of producing highly individual pieces in the finest workmanship throughout.'
J. P. MORGAN, THE COLLECTOR
John Pierpont Morgan, the legendary collector and financier, was the son of the banker and financier Junius Spencer Morgan I (1813-1890), a member of an established Connecticut family whose ancestor Miles Morgan had arrived in Boston from Britain in 1636. J. P. Morgan’s father had spent 27 years living in England and he ensured his son acquired a wide ranging education, first at the English High School in Boston and then at Bellerive School, Switzerland, where he learnt to speak French. He acquired passable German during his time at Gottingen University where he studied Art History. On his return to America he entered the world of finance, establishing J. P. Morgan and Company in 1895. He was a collector from an early age and throughout his life acquired numerous manuscripts and works of art. He is described as having acquired ‘a conventional New York "gentleman's collection" of drawings’ during these years. The death of his father in 1890 brought him a bequest of over $12 million. This enabled Morgan to expand his horizons vastly. He travelled throughout Europe adding to his collection. Belle da Costa Greene (1883-1950), his librarian and advisor reported on the travels and purchases in letters to the art connoisseur Bernard Berenson, her lover, ‘…the Big Chief has succeeded in acquiring all of the world here now & most of the world without & keeps us very busy every minute – I cannot understand his unfailing energy & grasp. It is quite marvelous.’ Berenson was acutely aware of the financial power of Morgan. More often than not when he commented on a work of art in a church or palazzo he would be told ‘Birbo Morgo had offered cento mila lire for it.’
The scale of his collecting was enormous, however, when he died in Rome in 1913 at the age of 75 it was clear he had made only the most general of plans for it's display. The extraordinary collection of books and manuscripts were preserved by the Morgan Library and eventually some of his finest pictures and over 7,000 objects were acquired by the Metropolitan Museum, New York and 1,300 objects by the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut. Morgan’s biographer later calculated that he could have spent some £60 million on the collection, almost $1 billion today. The degree to which his wealth was based on his collection was revealed by the value of his estate at death, $80 million, somewhat less than many had expected. John D. Rockefeller was reported to have said ‘And to think he wasn’t even a rich man.’ The sheer volume of the collection meant sales had to take place, privately and starting in the 1918 at auction, with Asian works of art. Sales of furniture and portrait miniature followed in 1935. A series of sales continue through the 30s and 40s with Christie’s having auctions in 1944 of the contents of his house Wall Hall, near Aldenham in Hertfordshire. The sale in which the present lot was included, ‘Superb old English silver from the reign of Elizabeth to George IV’ which took place at Parke Bernet in 1947 saw some of the finest example of his English plate collection come to the market, a number of lots from the sale are now in museum collections, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which exhibits his magnificently engraved Elizabeth I ewer and basin of 1567.