The attribution of these casters to the celebrated Huguenot goldsmith Philip Rollos is based on a nearly identical set bearing his mark, formerly the property of Sir John Vyvyan Bt., sold Sotheby's, 13 June 1983, lot 28, and exhibited London, Christie's, The Glory of the Goldsmith, Magnificent Gold and Silver from the Al-Tajir Collection, 1989, no.49. The present lot is engraved with the cypher of Queen Anne and is recorded in the Jewel House records as forming part of the ambassadorial plate supplied to Baron Raby as Ambassador to the Court of Prussia on 25 September 1705. At that time Philip Rollos was Subordinate Goldsmith to the Queen, and it is likely that as such he would have carried out this important commission. The entry in the Jewel House records lists silver and silver-gilt plate amounting to 3,698ozs. 10dwts of white plate and 945ozs. 10dwts of gilt plate. The entry for the casters in the Lord Chamberlain's accounts of 1705 (LC9.-44.f.70) is as follows:
Delivered unto his Excellency the Lord Raby, Ambassador to the King of Prussia by the hands of Mr. Ellison the following particulars of gilt and white plate
gilt One sett of castors 57-15-0'
The delivery of the casters to the Jewel House and their cost is also recorded (LC9/47 folio 68): 'For Lord Raby Ambassador to Prussia- Gilt plate-one sett of castors, finely chased and wrought - £38/19s/07½d'
Thomas Wentworth, Baron Raby and later Viscount Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse and Stainborough and 1st Earl of Strafford of the third creation (1672-1739) was son and heir of Sir William Wentworth of Northgate Head, Wakefield. He had a distinguished career in the army of William III and as a leading diplomat in the service of Queen Anne. After the Glorious Revolution in 1689 he took up a commission in Lord Colchester's Regiment of Horse, displaying great bravery at the Battle of Steinkirk in 1697, and in that same year took command of the Royal Regiment of Dragoons. He later became aide-de-camp to the King. He accompanied Lord Portland to the Court of the King of France in 1698. Having attended the coronation of the King of Prussia as representative of William III in 1701 he was in 1703 appointed Envoy Extraordinary to the Court of the King of Prussia at Berlin. He was made ambassador to the Court in 1705, and the present casters were supplied by the Queen's Jewel House as part of the ambassadorial plate.
Raby's ambassadorial career continued with his appointment to the Hague in 1711 and in the same year he was created Viscount Wentworth of Wentworth Woodhouse and Stainborough, Earl of Strafford, and made a Privy Councillor. In the following year he was made a Knight of the Garter and a Lord of the Admiralty. In retirement he divided his time between his estates in Yorkshire and his house in Twickenham where he corresponded with Alexander Pope and his neighbour Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. He died at Wentworth Castle in 1739.
The Raby ambassadorial plate was deposited in strongboxes at Glyn, Mills and Co., Lombard Street in 1831 and was only withdrawn on a few occasions for the London season, with a final outing in 1859. It remained untouched for at least the next one hundred years, until five lots were sold at Sotheby's, 27 June 1963, lots 49-53. A pair of magnificent wine-coolers by David Willaume, circa 1710 and a ewer and basin also by Willaume, 1705 with engraving attributed to John Rollos were sold at Christie's London, 23 May 1990, lots 230 and 231. The present casters, when sold in 1994, were the final items from the original deposit to be offered by a direct descendant of the Earl of Strafford.
The condition of the casters, as with most of the Raby plate, is exceptional. The quality of the applied ornament is unexcelled, and the engraved circles into which the cypher was engraved are still clearly visible. One unusual feature is the presence of a small engraved flowerhead on the rim of each cover, which, when aligned with a small circular stud on the body, allows the cover to be removed.
Philip Rollos appears in the denization list of 1691. Although his country of origin is not recorded and virtually nothing is known of his early career, he is listed as a plate worker as early as 1675, but he did not obtain his freedom from the Goldsmiths' Company until 1697. He held the post of Subordinate Goldsmith to both King William III and Queen Anne and remained one of the most prominent Huguenot goldsmiths until the early years of the reign of King George I. His major surviving works are the magnificent cisterns of 1699 in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg and the Marlborough Plate at Althorp, Northamptonshire.
These casters are designed after the French manner in the early 18th century 'antique' style, popularised by engravings published by Daniel Marot (d.1752), architect and designer to King William III. Their form derives from a Roman wine-krater vase. The reed-gadrooned bowl is enriched in the arabesque manner with a fretted-ribbon guilloche and Roman acanthus, similar to that of a vase engraved in Marot's Nouveau Livre d'Orfevrerie, pl.5. Queen Anne's cypher, encircled by the motto of the Order of the Garter, is displayed between serpentine ribbons that wreath the neck of each antique-stippled vase. The casters are illustrated, and the surviving Wentworth plate listed, in C. Hartop, op. cit., pp.76-77.