Sir Robert Walpole's account in George Wickes's Gentleman's Ledgers, 29 July 1738 (c) Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Sir Robert Walpole, later 1st Earl of Orford (1676-1745), by Sir Godfrey Kneller, circa 1710-1715 National Portrait Gallery, Given by The Art Fund, 1945
Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford (1717-1797), by John Giles Eccardt, 1754 National Portrait Gallery, Purchased, 1895
Sir Robert Walpole acquired this baroque tureen to fit into the magnificent interiors of Houghton Hall, decorated by William Kent from 1725 to 1735.
The provenance of the tureen is exceptionally well documented, first in Robert Walpole's collection at Houghton and again in the collection of his youngest son and heir Horace Walpole, builder of Strawberry Hill. In 1738, royal goldsmith George Wickes recorded in his ledger that he cleaned this tureen, made a pair to it, and engraved both pieces with the Walpole badge. The transaction is listed under Robert Walpole's account for July 29, 1738, describing "byling [boiling] and doing up a tureen as new" and "graving 4 crests and garters."
The Crespin tureen and its pair by Wickes were again recorded in the celebrated Strawberry Hill sale of 1842, each described as "An elegant shaped OCTAGON SOUP TUREEN AND COVER, chased mat and leaf ornaments, on bold Lion masque feet." The tureens reappeared together at auction in 1964, and were purchased by Janice Rosenthal in 1965. In 2002, she sold the Wickes example to the Norwich Castle Museum, near Houghton Hall in Norfolk. Together with the present tureen, it is a rare survival of the large amount of silver ordered for Houghton by the important patron Robert Walpole.
The only other known tureen made to this design is marked by Benjamin Godfrey, circa 1735, now in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (The Wickes example of 1738 and the Godfrey example are illustrated in Christopher Hartop, The Huguenot Legacy, 1996, pp. 179-180.)