The arms are those of the House of Savoy, Kings of Piedmont-Sardinia.
During the reign of Carlo Emannuele III (1701-1773), Duke of Savoy and, from 1730, King of Sardinia, the art of the Turinese silversmith reached its apogee rivaling the work of the leading Parisian makers of the day such as François-Thomas Germain, who worked for the most important Royal families of Europe.
Lorenzo Lavy (1720?-1789), born in Turin, was indeed trained in the workshop of Germain in Paris. He returned to Turin where he contributed greatly to elevating the art of the Turinese silversmiths to the level of Europe's finest. A superb silversmith and engraver, who became the official chaser to the Royal Mint and was thus silversmith to the Court of Turin in 1750, Lavy's surviving work was clearly inspired by designs of a leading sculptor. The design for this Royal inkstand can firmly be attributed to Francesco Ladatte (1706-1787).
Francesco Ladetti or Ladetto, born in Turin in 1706, moved to Paris at a very young age, "frenchifying" his name to Ladatte, and won, in 1728, second prize as sculptor at the Royal Academy and first prize in the following year. This allowed him to go to Rome as a pensionnaire of the King of France. In 1732, he returned to Turin where he undertook his first work for the Court, comprising gilt-bronze works of art. His collaboration with Piffetti produced a wonderful dressing-room for the Queen which is one of the great wonders of 18th Century decorative art. In 1734 he returned to Paris where he became a member of the Academy two years later and an adjunct professor in 1743. From 1737 to 1743, Ladatte exhibited regularly his work at the Salon.
It is evident that there was considerable amount of contact amongst the Piedmontese artists and artisants living in Paris at that time and the greatest of these was unquestionably the sculptor and designer, Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier (1695-1750). This silver-gilt inkstand clearly reflects the influence of the silversmith Meissonier on Ladatte's work. As well as this artistic relationship, it is important to recall the work of the architect Filippo Juvara, who arrived in Turin in 1714 and also was the designer of a number of pieces of silver made for the Turinese Court.
This group of connected artists with different backgrounds but involved with the design and creation of silver contributed to placing Turin in the first rank of 18th Century silversmithing centres. Turinese silver was widely distributed among the leading European capitals of the day. An ecuelle by the same silversmith, Lorenzo Lavy, is today in the collection of the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Vienna (MAK). This ecuelle is struck with the same assaymaster's mark as this inkstand, that of Bartolomeo Pagliani, assayer from 1753 to 1775 at the Turin Mint and incidently a haberdasher. Both this ecuelle and the present inkstand personify the rococo style at its best, strong and graceful with contrasting finely chased matted and polished surfaces, and both are without doubt works of art of the first rank.
Some of the works of Lorenzo Lavy were exhibited on the occasion of the great retrospective exhibition of Piedmontese baroque art, Mostra Del Barocco Piemontese, Turin, 1963. In the exhibition catalogue, there is a chapter dedicated to Turinese silver. Compare Bargoni, A. Argenti, pp. 1-32 and the 71 illustrations. Especially relevant are no. 136 (the Royal ecuelle op cit), fig. 38-39, no. 149, fig. 43, and nos. 29, 36 and 136. Bargoni also discusses Piedmontese silver in Mastri orafi e argentieri in Piemonte dal XVII al XIX secolo, Centro studi Piemontesi, Torino.