Thomas Secker (1693-1768)
Secker was born in 1683 at Sibthorpe, co. Notts. His father was a nonconformist gentleman farmer. He had a somewhat peripatetic early education but had settled on the study of medicine by 1716, attending Paris, Leiden and Oxford Universities. He was ordained as deacon in St. James’s Church, Piccadilly where he was later to be rector.
His first living was at Houghton-le-Spring, co. Durham but it was his appointment as rector of St. James’s Piccadilly in 1733, which followed on from him becoming Chaplain to Queen Caroline, that confirmed him as a cleric destined for high office. He was nominated Bishop of Bristol in 1734 and Bishop of Oxford in 1737. A staunch supporter of the Hanoverian Government, his sense of diplomacy allowed Secker to avoid collision with those with whom he disagreed. Although he was suspected of being a friend of the Prince of Wales, King George II promoted him to be Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral and in 1758 made him Archbishop of Canterbury, a position he held until his death ten years later. He was widely respected for his erudition and hard work and for the attention he paid to his clergy and the finances of the various dioceses which served.
Thomas Secker and Paul de Lamerie
It is not surprising that Secker patronised the Huguenot goldsmith Paul de Lamerie. Secker was a supporter of foreign Protestants giving money to support Huguenots in London and appointing several to Canterbury livings. Perhaps more significant is the friendship and support he received from the Lord Chancellor, Philip, 1st Earl of Hardwicke (1690-1764). L. W. Barnard in Thomas Secker, An Eighteenth Century Primate, Sussex, 1998, p. 99 noted that after the death of Archbishop Hutton, ‘... Lord Hardwicke’s influence carried it for Secker who certainly did not want parts or worldiness.’ Hardwicke was one of Lamerie’s most important patrons. Secker’s commissions most probably date from the 1730s and 40s. A set of three casters of 1725 (see C. Hartop, The Huguenot Legacy, London, 1996, cat. no. 24), a dish of 1730 (Christie’s, London, 10 July 1996, lot 180) and a sweetmeat basket of 1745 together with the present lot are all engraved with the arms of Secker as Bishop of Oxford.
Paul de Lamerie (1688-1751)
Paul de Lamerie was born in the Netherlands in April 1688. He was the only child of Paul Souchay de la Merie, an officer in the army of William III, and his wife, Constance le Roux. They moved to London in 1689, settling in Berwick Street in Soho. Lamerie was apprenticed to Pierre Platel, another member of the growing community of Huguenots. Platel’s work shows great skill.
Having finished his apprenticeship Lamerie registered his first mark as a largeworker on 5 February 1713 and opened a workshop in Windmill Street, near Haymarket. Within a short period of time he was producing work to the highest standards, for example the Sutherland Wine-Cistern, hallmarked in 1719, sold from the collection of the Duke of Sutherland (Christie’s, London, 29 November 1961, lot 144) and now in the collection of the Minneapolis Museum of Art.
P. A. S. Phillips describes the Sutherland cistern as ‘...the earliest piece which I know of de Lamerie’s highly decorative plate, showing exceptional imagination in form and ornaments, and exhibiting unexpected power in his early work’ (P. A. S. Phillips, Paul de Lamerie His Life and Work, London, 1935, p. 76). This imagination continued to be the distinguishing feature of his output, culminating in his production of plate designed in the latest Rococo fashion.
Besides producing some of the greatest silver of the 18th century Lamerie also served as captain and, later, major in the Westminster Volunteer Association and served on committees at the Goldsmiths’ Company. Though he never served as prime warden of the company he did supply them with a great deal of plate, perhaps most famously with a ewer and basin made in 1741.
As no ledgers survive it is not possible to say exactly how much plate he supplied during the course of his long career but he certainly supplied some of the greatest patrons of the arts in England, such as Sir Robert Walpole, for whom he made at least two inkstands, the Earl of Thanet and Baron Anson, for whom he produced entire dinner services, and the Duke of Bedford. During his career Lamerie also produced a number of salvers with similar openwork grapevine cast borders. Another example was sold Christie’s, New York, 14 April 2005, lot 235.