The form of the 'pilgrim flask' has its roots in the leather water-flask carried by the pilgrim or traveller of the Middle Ages. T. Schroder in The Gilbert Collection of Silver and Gold, Los Angeles, 1988, p.455, traces the development of the form to French silver examples of the late 16th century; although described as 'flagons' they have the same pear-shaped form, elongated neck and oval section of later examples. Popular until the end of the 16th century, a revival of their manufacture took place in the 1660s. Particularly grand flasks with fine cut-card work were produced in the late 17th and early 18th century. They provided the inspiration for Edward Farrell and Robert Garrard in the 19th century. They were used as grand display plate and many of the later examples by Garrard were presentation pieces from the Royal Families of Europe such as those exhibited, London, Sotheby's, English Silver Treasures from the Kremlin, 1991, no.111 which were given by the Royal Families of Greece and Denmark to Alexander III on his marriage to Marie-Fedorovna in 1866. The form was also popular for the grandest racing trophies as demonstrated by the present lot.
Archibald, 5th Earl of Rosebery (1847-1929) married Hannah (1851-1890), daughter of Baron Meyer de Rothschild (1818-1874) in 1878. Rosebery himself was a keen collector, however his father-in-law had formed one of the greatest art collections of the nineteenth century. Throughout his life Rosebery added to the collection. He was noted for his intelligence at an early age but left Oxford without a degree, the university authorities having taken exception to his interests in racing. The love of racing would never leave him and he is the only serving Prime Minister whose horse won the Derby. He was a noted orator and a man of great charm. He failed to fulfil expectations as Prime Minister but his two periods as Foreign Secretary are generally regarded as his finest hour.