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Bread basket, one of pair

Origin: England, London
H: 10 3/4" OL: 15 7/8" OW: 13 1/8"
Silver (Sterling) with gilding
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1938-45,2
Bread basket, one of pair Silver gilt; cast arched handle soldered on opposed sides of body at rim in a fixed vertical position; face of handle embellished with a cherub's head wearing a winged hat in center flanked by scrolls, tasseled wheat stalks, and flowers on a ribbed ground; upper section of handle terminating in voluted acanthus leaves; side members of handle in the form of demi-cherubs embellished with scrolls and flowers; body of oval plan with everted rim and lobed sides; cast and applied scrolled and floral border at rim incorporating demi-cherubs holding sheaves of wheat at ends, demi-cherubs with winged hats and sickles on opposed sides in center, and male and female lion heads between these; sides pierced and engraved on interior and exterior with scrolls, flowers and leaves; interior of base flat-chased at edge with border of scrolls, flowers, and shells, enclosing engraved cartouche with coat of arms in center; body supported on four cast voluted-leaf feet with cherubs' masks and flowers on knees; cast and applied apron of scrolls, flowers, and shells in garland arrangement between feet. Gilded.
Label:The most important example of English rococo silver in the Colonial Williamsburg collection is this pair of silver-gilt breadbaskets of 1747/48 by Paul de Lamerie, the most celebrated of eighteenth-century English silversmiths. He, more than any other English silversmith, realized the rich potentialities of this decorative style. He had an unusual ability, stemming from his extreme inventiveness, to integrate form and varied ornament with rich overall decorative effect and a rhythmic play of textures.

The complex composition of these baskets is carefully orchestrated with skillful modulations from one section to the next based primarily upon differing decorative means. The rim is formed by an elaborate cast overlay, bound by broad sinuous curves, inviting the eye to move from cherubs with wheat sheaves and sickles to male and female lions peering out from groups of flowers. The lower edge of the rim is of very irregular outline, which helps it blend in with the bold surrounding piercing of the sides, which are engraved to give them added fullness. The sides are further strengthened visually by their division into shaped panels of varied widths, which relate to the placement of the cherubs and lions above. The eye then moves from the engraved openwork of the sides to the deep-set flat-chased border of the base, composed of bold paired C-scrolls and relieved by delicate floral garlands within, which frame and form a transition to the even more delicate engraved arms in the center. The rhythm of the rim is echoed in that of the apron and outward curling leaf feet. The handle aids in the successful distribution of these cast sculptural elements.

A de Lamerie breadbasket of 1744/45 in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also in his rich and inventive rococo style, is one of a small group of pieces by this maker engraved with the arms of David Franks, the prominent Philadelphia merchant, impaled with those of his wife, Margaret Evans, whom he married the previous year (see accession 1964-434). A more modest London rococo breadbasket of 1752/53 in a private collection was originally owned by and is engraved with the arms of the Byrd family of Westover Plantation, Charles City County, Virginia. Maria Byrd sold it along with seven other pieces of family silver to John Brown of Providence in 1788.
Provenance:Sneyd family, Keele Hall, Staffordshire (sold at Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 1924)
William Randolph Hearst (sold by Parish-Watson & Co., New York, 1938)
Acquired by CWF in 1938.
Mark(s):marked in relief on underside of body 1) lion passant; 2) sponsor's mark "P·L" in script letters with a crown above and a pellet below within a shaped reserve; 3) leopard's head crowned; and 4) date letter "m" for 1747-48 on underside of each body
Inscription(s):Arms of the Sneyd family of Keele Hall, Staffordshire, engraved in center of each base.