This is one of a suite of three chargers made as seal plate for the Marquess Camden to designs by architect Charles Heathcote Tatham and published in his work Designs for Ornamental Plate, 1806, pls. I and II. The two matching smaller chargers sold from the estate of Thomas Kelley, Christie's, New York, 29 April, 1986, lot 150.
This monumental dish, applied with acanthus leaves and architectural fragments, well illustrates its designer's fascination with ancient Roman architecture. In the introduction to Ornamental Plate, Tatham wrote:
"It has been much lamented by Persons high in Rank, and eminent for taste, that modern Plate has much fallen off both in design and execution from that formerly produced in this Country. Indeed, the truth of this remark is obvious for instead of Massiveness, the principal characteristic of good Plate, light and insignificant forms have prevailed to the utter exclusion of all Ornament whatever."
Perhaps because of the considerable amount of metal required for their fabrication, extant pieces of silver made to Tatham's designs are extremely scarce; only thirteen are known. In addition to Earl Camden's three dishes, weighing a total of 876 ounces, there is a signed candelabrum made for Earl Spencer in 1800 at Althorp, and nine Tatham-attributed centerpieces marked by Philip Cornman from 1800-1813.
One of the smaller Camden dishes is signed "Balaam," for the sculptor S. Balaam, who modelled the rich applied decoration and Royal arms on these three dishes. Balaam exhibited an equestrian sculpture of the Duke of Wellington at the Royal Academy in 1817.