Matthew Chitty Darby was the second son of Vice Admiral George Darby of Newtown House, Hampshire and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir William St. Quentin Bt. He inherited the Padworth estate from his maternal aunt Catherine Griffith, the widow of Christopher Griffith Esq. in 1801. In accordance with her will, he took the additional name and arms of Griffith. He was a distinguished soldier and served in the Grenadier Guards for thirty years taking part in the expedition to Holland, under Sir Ralph Abercrombie, in 1799. He later served under the Duke of York during the Napoleonic wars. He fought at the battle of Corunna in 1809 where he was wounded and lost a leg. He died at Padworth House in 1823.
Only a few identical cream-boats by Lamerie are known. An 1736 example from the Swaythling Collection was shown in the 1902 exhibition 'The Loan Collection at St. James's Court' and later sold, their sale, Christie's, London, 6 May 1924, lot 23. An example of 1736, with later engraved crest and coronet, was in the collection of the The Lords Mowbray and Stourton, and sold, their sale, Sotheby's, London, 18 November 1965. One of 1738, in the possession of Thomas Lumley, was illustrated and described in D. Fulwell, 'Some Unique Cream Jugs,' Antique Dealer and Collector's Guide, vol. 17, no. 11, June 1963. It then entered the Jamie Ortiz-Patiño Collection and sold, his sale, Sotheby's, New York, 22 April 1998, lot 19.
The distinctive scroll and cartouche feet and grotesque bird's head on the handle are common to several of Lamerie's small cream-boats and cream-jugs. The deep oval form and shaped scroll border can be seen on two earlier 1726 examples by Lamerie, illustrated in P. A. S. Phillips, Paul de Lamerie: His Life and Work, London, 1935, pl. XLIX and L. An example with the bird's head handle of 1736 is illustrated in E. Alcorn, Beyond the Maker's Mark: Paul de Lamerie Silver in the Cahn Collection, 2006, illus. no. 29. The distinctively modelled mask and cartouche feet were used by Lamerie on a cream-jug made in the same year as the present lot, illustrated in P.A.S. Phillips, op. cit., pl. CXIX and another example sold, Christie's, New York, 23 October 2013, lot 112.
Paul de Lamerie (1688-1751) - Master of the Rococo
Paul de Lamerie is rightly seen as the greatest silversmith working in Britain in the 18th century; his works have been prized above all others for the last two hundred and fifty years. His obituary published in the London Evening Post following his death in 1751 celebrated him for being 'famous in making fine ornamental plate.' When the names of other silversmiths were forgotten his lived on, his work inspiring the silversmiths of the rococo revival in the early 19th century and being widely coveted by leading silver collectors since the 19th century. During his long career Lamerie supplied many of the powerful aristocrats of the time. Pieces by Lamerie form the centrepiece of many museum and leading private collections.
In common with a number of the greatest and most inventive silversmiths working in London in the 18th century Lamerie was of French Huguenot parentage. The Protestant Huguenots had been protected from persecution by the Edict of Nantes issued by King Henry IV of France in 1598. However, his grandson King Louis XIV withdrew his protection in 1685 and revoked the edict. Protestants were required to renounce their religion and if not they fled the country. This led to an exodus of some four hundred thousand French citizens, many highly educated. It is not known when Lamerie's father left France but one can assume it was sometime between the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October 1685 and February 1686 when he and his brother appear on a list of French refugee officers serving in army of the United Provinces of the Netherlands. The young Paul was apprenticed to a fellow Huguenot, Pierre Platel, of Pall Mall in 1703, becoming free of his master in 1711. Within six years he was being described as 'the King's Silversmith.'
When Christie's sold the magnificent silver collection of the late Duke of Sussex (1773-1843), sixth son of King George III, in 1843, the description of a tea urn was ornamented with the note that it was 'in the beautiful taste of Paul L'Emery’. His work was the subject of a monograph by P.A.S. Phillips published in 1935. In 1990, a ground-breaking exhibition dedicated to his works took place at Goldsmiths' Hall, London.