The use of the these cups and stands has been much disscussed since they appeared at auction at Christie's in 1915. It was suggested by J. Hayward in Huguenot Silver in England 1688-1720, London, 1959, p.59 that they were tea-cups and stands. He cites them as the earliest examples of tea-cups, although a number of shallow cups, decorated with chinoiserie flat-chasing date from 1683. The natural heat conducting properties of silver meant it was thoroughly unsatisfactory for this use and soon the imported Oriental porcelain cups superceeded silver examples. The early 1680s chinoiserie cups appear to copy imported porcelain examples having a shallow profile and no handle. The finely cast handles on these cups do point to some other use, perhaps as part of a toilet service, as J. Lomax suggests in British Silver at Temple Newsam and Lotherton Hall, Leeds, 1992, p.169,for a pair of two handled covered cups, also by the maker FSs in the Temple Newsam collection. The Temple Newsam cups and the set of six similar cups, sold Sotheby's London, 24 October 1989, lot 521, are each finely engraved with characteristic foliage scrolls, birds and masks. These cups and the present pair have similar cast S scroll handles, which J. Lomax, op. cit., notes are derived from Simon Gribelin's engravings published in Livre Estampes, 1722. Furthermore it has been suggested that the engraving style of the foliage bears comparison to the work of Blaise Gentot (A. G. Grimwade, 'The Master of George Vertue, his Identity and Oeuvre', Apollo, vol. CXXVII, February 1988, p.83-89. Other comparisons have been made with the work of the engraver HR, who signed his initials on the top of the silver table in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen, Windsor Castle, by Andrew Moore, circa 1700.
The identity of the maker FSs has been much debated. It is almost certain that was a Huguenot. The style of his maker's mark and the strong Huguenot characteristics of his pieces leave little doubt. Various lists of his work, J. Lomax, op. cit, p.169-170 and Meech Sale Catalogue, op. cit., lot 49 record thirteen items, of which two further can be added, both in private collections. The present lot would appear to be be the only example which is fully marked.