The Duke of York's Silver Supplied by Kensington Lewis
The extraordinary group of silver made for the Duke of York under the direction of the retailer and antiquarian, Kensington Lewis, was the most innovative silver of its time, anticipating the full-blown historicism of the mid-19th century. The Duke of York and his elder brother, the Prince Regent (after 1820, King George IV), were together the most influential collectors and patrons of silver in the first quarter of the century. The Duke of York's silver, however, was based largely on baroque sources, and stands apart from the classical styles promoted by the Royal Goldsmiths, Rundell Bridge and Rundell and supplied to the King.
Credit for the distinctive style of the Duke of York's silver must be given to Kensington Lewis, whose passion for 17th-century silver was demonstrated by his purchases in the Duke of Norfolk's auction in 1816. There, he acquired a salver decorated with "figures of marine deities" or "sea nymphs and tritons in relief," and a tankard with "a feast of the Gods, in exquisite bas-relief . . . Alexander visiting the tent of Darius . . . the handle formed as a syren." Lewis was retailer of the twelve remarkable Aldobrandini Tazze, which he exhibited in 1826. Such objects in Lewis's possession undoubtedly influenced his designs for new silver objects, executed for him by Edward Farrell (see lots 198-200). John Culme proposed this thesis in his important study, "Kensington Lewis: A Nineteenth Century Businessman" (Connoisseur, September 1975, London, Vol. 100, no. 763 pp. 26-41).
A broader review of the antiquarian influences on Royal plate was made in an article by Shirley Bury, Alexandra Wedgwood and Michael Snodin in The Burlington Magazine (“The Antiquarian Plate of George IV: A Gloss on E. A. Jones”, June 1979, vol. 121, no. 915, pp. 343-351, 353). The authors reason that the inventiveness met the need for “embellishment” of Royal interiors such as Windsor Castle, rather than solely providing extensive dining services (op. cit., p. 349).
Lewis, an expert salesman, was able to channel the Duke of York's profligate spending toward Farrell, a talented silversmith capable of creating new designs from a variety of historical sources. It was this phenomenal collaboration of patron, retailer, and craftsman which resulted in these extravagant and highly original objects. Four pieces from the Duke of York's commissions, including Lewis and Farrell's masterpiece, the Hercules candelabrum (lot 200), were sold, the C. Ruxton and Audrey B. Love Collection; Christie's, New York, 19 October 2004.