A Pair of Magnificent George III Silver Rimmonim made for the Great Synagogue of Portsmouth, England.
Maker's mark of Hester Bateman, London, 1780.
Each set on a plain tapering stem with foliate knop and beaded bands at the edges, the raised upper part of the stem and the vase-shaped body decorated with beaded fluted foliage and palmette leaf bands, the sixteen partly reeded domed bells each suspending from a scrolled foliate bracket, the rised top surmounted by a crown decorated with geometrical and beaded bands, triangular spreading leaves and baluster finial.
42.5cm. (16 1n.) high
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Anglo-Jewish Silver, An exhibition of Jewish ritual silver and plate associated with the Jewish community of England. 10 may - 9 july 1978, catalogue nr. 43 (lent by the Portsmouth and Southsea Hebrew Congregation).
Catalogue of an exhibition of Anglo Jewish Art and History In commemoration of the tercentenary of the resettlement of the Jews in the British Isles. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1956, catalogue nr. 193 (lent by the Portsmouth and Southsea Hebrew Congregation).
Hester Bateman was the most prominent member of the famous Bateman family of silversmiths. She is often referred to as the 'Queen of English Silversmiths'. In 1732 she married John Bateman, a maker of watch chains. Using the new techniques that became available in her days and well aware of the demands of the expanding silver market, she was instrumental in the establishment of a strong and expanding family business near London. Upon the death of her husband in 1761 she registered her own maker's mark. Her work is generally characterized by refined shapes, with restrained decorations, often limited to beading on the edges. This characterization fits the 1780 Rimmonim offered for sale here, in which a plain neo-classical form predominates the carefully restricted decoration, largely consisting of beaded lines along the edges. Hester Bateman was also known as one of England's foremost bright-cut engravers. Upon her retirement in 1790, she handed over the business to her sons, Peter and Jonathan. Other prominent silversmiths of the Bateman family were Hester's daughter-in-law Ann, her grandson William and her great-grandson William Jr.
Hester Bateman is known to have produced one other important piece of Judaica, being a 1781 Sabbath Lamp (illustrated in M. Clayton's Collector's dictionary of the silver and gold of Great Britain and North America (1971), sold by Mrs. Charles Sebag-Montefiore at Christie's London, 16 October 1963, lot 31). The Bateman family were further responsible for several pieces of Jewish ritual silver, including circumcision bowls; one 1800-1801 pair of Rimmonim, crafted by Peter and William (now in the Jacobo Furman Collection of Judaica, bought at Sotheby's London, English Silver and Objects of Vertu, 18 June 1987, lot 319); an 1802 pair of Rimmonim by Peter, Anne and William (donated to Cheetham Hill Synagogue in Manchester in 1923 by Bevis Marks Synagogue for which presumably they were made originally); and yet another pair of Rimmonim with the mark of Peter and Willian, 1811 (sold at Christie's New York, 9 October 1980, lot 192 and subsequently as part of the A.L. Shane Collection at Christie's East, 24 June 1998, lot 47); an 1811 parcel-gilt silver Torah pointer, crafted by Peter and William (sold at Christie's East, New York, 24 June 1998, as part of the A.L. Shane Collection, lot 46); the 1818-1819 silver mounts of a Torah scroll, crafted by William (on loan to the Jewish Museum, London).
The Historical Background
This magnificent pair of vase-shaped Rimmonim were commissioned from Hester Bateman in 1780 and show a clear break with the prevailing artistic style of Rimmonim produced in England during the first century after the re-admission of the Jews to England in 1657. The Rimmonim produced in England in the course of the eighteenth century were modeled after the tower-shaped Rimmonim that were used in seventeenth-century Amsterdam, the city where most of the new Jewish settlers in England came from. The then highly fashionable neo-classical George III Rimmonim were commissioned to mark a major event in the history of the Portsmouth Jewish community (the second Jewish community to be founded in England, after London), i.e. the inauguration of the newly-built White's Row Synagogue in 1781. This inauguration must have been overshadowed by the serious internal crisis through which the community went in this period. In 1766 a major dispute had taken place over the establishment of a united rabbinate for the Ashkenazic community in London. The Portsmouth community would be divided into two hostile parties for a period of no less than 23 years, which, among others, resulted in the establishment of the New Synagogue at Daniel's Row, Portsmouth Common. Interestingly, the Bateman Rimmonim must have impressed members of both the old and the new communities, since in 1785 the new community ordered a wonderful pair of vase-shaped Rimmonim, inscribed in Hebrew and copied directly from the Bateman originals. These Rimmonim are still the proud possession of the Portsmouth community, which has re-joined in the year 1789.
The Bateman Rimmonim are of exceptional artistic quality, showing an entirely original design and having additional importance on account of their fascinating historical background. In view of the fact that nowadays the large majority of Rimmonim are offered on the free market without their historical background, the appearance of a fully documentated pair of English Torah finials is an extremely rare occasion. (2)