This exceptionally rare silver-gilt mounted Iznik pottery jug is the earliest of the three London hallmarked examples extant. In addition there are a further four jugs with unmarked mounts that are generally accepted as being English. The complete list is as follows:
1. The present jug with mounts marked by IH, London, 1586
2. Another, painted with flower heads within scrolling foliage on white ground, also with mounts by IH, London, 1592
Sold by C.L.N. Tollemache, removed from Ham House, Surrey, Christie's London, 26 July 1948, lot 135 (£1050 to Mallet)
The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
3. A ewer painted with scrolling foliage on blue ground with spout and mounts by HB, London, 1597
Franks bequest, The British Museum, London
4. A jug painted with dotted flowerheads on a blue ground, the unmarked mounts circa 1570-1580
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
5. Another also painted with flowerheads and husks on white ground, the unmarked mounts circa 1580
Last recorded in the Connoisseur, 1937
6. Another, with silver mounts and pottery cover, painted with scrolling foliage, the unmarked mounts circa 1590-1600
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon
7. Another painted with very similar decoration to the present example but the green and white flutes with central scarlet, as opposed to black and blue, stripes, the unmarked mounts circa 1586 and attributable to IH.
Purchased by C. Winn "at a village shop for a few shillings" prior to 1862 when it was exhibited at the South Kensington Museum. This must refer to Charles Winn (d. 1874), father of the First baron St Oswald
Sold by the Trustees of Major the Lord St. Oswald, M.C., removed from Nostell Priory, Wakefield,
Christie's, 23 June 1971, lot 120, when the jug was described as late 16th century, the mounts circa 1600.
The mounts on the present jug and those on the St. Oswald jug appear to be virtually identical including the unusual vertical strap at the front, the strap round the base of the neck and the partly enclosed handle. Each has a rim mount engraved with birds perched amongst scrolling foliage which are loosely based on mid 16th century engravings by Virgil Solis. Indeed the mounts are so similar as to suggest that they were originally mounted as a pair or, at the very least, were mounted by the same maker and at the same time. The marked variation between the covers of the St. Oswald example and the present, Swaythling jug is explained by the fact that each was cut out of a differing piece of presumably damaged Iznik pottery - in the case of the latter from the centre of a saucer dish.
Apart from Iznik pottery the IH in shaped shield mark has been recorded on a number of pieces of mounted exotica including the Trenchard bowl of Jia-Jing Chinese porcelain mounted in 1599, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Philips Glanville (op. cit. pp. 346 and 446 and 44, cat. nos 73 and 74) discusses the difficulty of identifying this particular maker among the 34 active goldsmiths with these initials in London in the 1590s. Indeed, at least three differing IH marks appear on mounts of this period which may either have been variations used by one maker or the mark of differing individuals.
It is, of course, perfectly possible that such Iznik jugs reached North Western Europe through established trade routes via, for example, Venice. However, it is significant that the mounts date from the last twenty years of the Sixteenth century, a time when direct trade links were being formed between England and Turkey. In 1578 William Harebrowne, who subsequently changed his name to William Harborne, first set sail for Turkey and, by 1580, had secured from Sultan Murad III the right for English merchants to trade in Turkey. This in turn lead shortly thereafter to the establishment of the London-based Levant Company. Harborne was appointed ambassador 'in the portes of Turkie' in 1582 amd finally left Turkey in 1588. It would seem almost certain that during his ambassadorship he would have sent home examples of wares then obtainable in Istanbul.