COLLECTION: Metals

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Two-handled covered cup

1649-1650
Origin: England, London
OH: 8"; OW: 7 3/4"; H(rim): 4 7/8"; Diam (cover): 5 3/16"; Diam (rim): 4 1/2"; Diam (base): 3 7/8"
Silver (Sterling); Gold (Silver-gilt)
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1938-32,A&B
Silver-gilt two-handled covered cup; cast finial of compressed ball form with two smaller graduated balls above surmounting cover; domed cover with inward rising center; cover divided into twelve vertical panels with a modest plain rib chased between them; plain horizontally-flanged edge to cover with short bezel on underside fitting within rim of body; globular body divided into twelve vertical panels with face of each concave in form; body fitted with two cast caryatid handles on opposing sides; body supported on a short foot of duodectagonal plan composed of a short collar over a flange with molded edge. An apparent block letter "L" crudely engraved on face of cover flange with three circular punch marks in triangular arrangement below. (Unidentified). Purchased / AT / Strawberry Hill / Horace Walpole" in script letters engraved on underside of base at a later date.

Label:This magnificent twelve-sided cup is by the most important English silversmith of the middle seventeenth century. Unknown by name but referred to as "the hound sejant maker," because he used a seated hound for his maker's mark, he produced a rich and varied body of work between 1646 and 1666. He secured many important commissions, both for domestic and ecclesiastical plate, during the lean years of the Civil War and the Commonwealth. Considering that he made a conspicuous quantity of plate for Royalist private chapels during the Commonwealth, it is surprising that he did not benefit from the greatly enlarged patronage of silversmiths after the Restoration.

This cup retains elements of English Renaissance two-handled cups. In its bulbous body with vertically paneled sides, each having a concave face, and its decorative cast handles of scrolled outline, it is related to matching cups of 1555/56 and 1570/71 at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. These cups, in turn are quire similar to one of 1533/34 at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, the earliest recorded English silver two-handled cup.

Similar twelve-side cups include a greatly restored example of 1652/53 by "the hound sejant maker" at Temple Newsam House, Leeds; one formerly owned by Sir Ernest Casel and Lady Louis Mountbatten; one of 1655/56 by an unidentified London maker (WH) in the Archibald A. Hutchinson collection, Fogg Art Museum Harvard University; and one of 1661/62 by an unidentified London Maker.

The base of this cup is inscribed "purchased/AT/Strawbery Hill/Horace Walpole." The calculated crudity and lack of subtlety, both in concept and execution, tend to discredit the veracity of the inscription. The inscription would appear to date before 1883, for in that year the cup was described in an auction catalog as "From Strawberry Hill." It does not appear in Walpole's A DESCRIPTION OF VILLA OF MR. HORACE WALPOLE, YOUNGEST SON OF SIR ROBERT WALPOLE, EARL OF OXFORD, AT STAWBERRY-HILL NEAR TWICKENHAM, MIDDLESEX, WITH AN INVENTORY OF THE FURNITURE, PICUTRES, CURISOSITIES, &C. (Strawberry Hill 1784) or in A CATALOGUE OF THE CLASSIC CONTENTS OF STAWBERRY HILL COLLECTED BY HORACE WALPOLE (London, 18421).
Provenance:Ex. Coll: Sir Samuel Montagu; Lord Swaythling; William Randolph Hearst; by 1901, the year of the silver exhibition at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in London, in which this piece was exhibited, it was owned by Sir Samuel Montagu. It was still in his possession in 1905, when Jackson issued the first edition of his ENGILISH GOLDSMITHS AND THEIR MARKS. In that volume, the maker's mark on this piece is rendered and the appropriate citation given. Sometime between then and 1921, the year Jackson issued his second edition, the piece changed hands. Its owner in this latter edition is given as Lord Swaythling. It remained in Lord Swaythling's hands until 1924. On May 6th of that year it was auctioned off at Christie's. It is presumably at this time that it was acquired by William Randolph Hearst, from whom Colonial Williamsburg purchased it in 1938. Its history prior to 1901 is much less definite. It is inscribed on the underside of the base: "Purchased/AT/Strawberry Hill/Horace Walpole". This inscription is somewhat ambiguous. It is not known at present whether it was actually owned by Horace Walpole or not or exactly what relation it has to Walpole. It is interesting to note, however, that George Montagu (1713?-1780) was from his early days at Eton a close friend of Horace Walpole. Wilmarth S. Lewis has edited two volumes of the correspondence between these two individuals. Although George Montagu was a commoner, Lewis states that "he was closely connected with all the noble Montagu families." (W.S. Lewis, HORACE WALPOLE'S CORRESPONDENCE WITH GEORGE MONTAGU (New Haven, 1941), I, xxiii) Sir Samuel Montagu, undoubtedly a descendent, later owned this cup, as stated previously. It is tempting to believe that Horace Walpole owned this cup and that it passed into the Montagu family through George or perhaps was acquired by a member of Montagu family before or at the time of the famous Strawberry Hill auction of 1842. Nothing definite can be said at present. Further work is being done. Full biographical citations are given for the Burlington Fine Arts Exhibition and the editions of Jackson in the Publication Record.
Mark(s):Maker's mark a hound sejant on an apparent wreath bar within a shaped shield, leopard's head crowned, lion passant, and date letter on underside of base. Cover unmarked.
Inscription(s):An apparent block letter "L" crudely engraved on face of cover flange with three circular punch marks in triangular arrangement below. (Unidentified). Purchased / AT / Strawberry Hill / Horace Walpole" in script letters engraved on underside of base at a later date.