The arms are those of Isaac, as borne by Henry Isaac (d.c. 1771), diamond merchant, of London.
Henry Isaac belonged to the very successful community of merchants in London who obtained diamonds from India through the East India Company. These dealers shipped consignments of coral, precious stones, and silver to Fort St. David, the headquarters of the East India Company near Madras, to be traded for rough diamonds. The ledgers of the East India Company record a typical transaction for Henry Isaac on October 4, 1749:
Order'd that the following persons have leave to send the particulars undermention'd to the East Indies for the purchase of diamonds on the Company's usual terms, viz . . .
Henry Isaac L 7000 in coral and foreign silver to Fort St. David (East India Company Court Minute Book, no. 63, f. 468)
The silver sent to India was required to be of foreign origin, as the export of sterling from England was prohibited. The coral was acquired in Leghorn (Livorno, Italy) and was valued according to whether it was finished rough, polished, or in beads.
Isaac lived at the Clock House at Whipp's Cross, and Lyonsdown, at Barnet after 1757. He collected Dutch 17th century pictures, including two by Rembrandt, one of which is now at Bowdoin College, Maine. His will, dated August 6, 1771, describes him as the "third owner of the Hambro Synagogue," an important Ashkenazi congregation formed in 1706 (Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, vols. 3, 21, 28, 33).
The identification of the coat-of-arms on this cake basket reveals a previously unknown patron of Paul de Lamerie. This discovery, combined with the known Lamerie silver made for David Franks, also of a London-based family of diamond merchants, suggests that an elite sector of Lamerie's clients were inter-related by trade and religion. A silver mazarine attributed to Lamerie, engraved with the arms of Sampson Gideon, another London merchant with ties to the diamond trade, supports this theory. It is well known that a significant share of Lamerie's production was commissioned by a group of Whigs related by marriage and political alliances. Lamerie's patronage by Jewish merchants of London, however, deserves further study. (For a discussion of Lamerie's Whig clientele, see Christopher Hartop, "Admiral Anson and his de Lamerie Silver," Antiques, June 1994, p. 856).
The well-documented Franks silver relates to Isaac's basket in style and period. The group of eight pieces with David Franks's arms was made near the time of his marriage in 1743, evidently a lavish wedding present from his London family. The Franks cake basket, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has a cast base and handle which match exactly those on the Isaac example. The group in general is of a light rococo taste with preference for naturalistic motifs, expressed on the Isaac basket by the unusual arrangement of insects clambering amidst the floral border. (See Christopher Hartop, The Huguenot Legacy, 1996, pp. 312-317, for a discussion of David Franks's silver; the cakebasket is illustrated on p. 315.)
Henry Isaac had commercial and personal ties to the Franks family, who dominated the diamond trade with India in the early 18th century. David Franks's uncle Aaron (1694-1777) became the head of the family diamond business in London in the 1740s, and David's brothers Naphtali (1715-1796) and Moses (1718-1789), born in New York, returned to London where they were also active in the diamond trade. David (1720-1794), interestingly, remained in the Colonies and moved to Philadelphia in 1738, where he and Moses established a mercantile business before Moses returned to London to become one of the most important importers of coral. David Franks returned to London, after being imprisoned as a Loyalist, in 1780. Both the Franks family and Henry Isaac were particularly active members of the Hambro Synagogue in London. (Gedalia Yogev, Diamonds and Coral: Anglo-Dutch Jews and Eighteenth Century Trade, 1978, pp. 124-168.)
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Detail of coat-of-arms, lot 264
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Detail of border