A Royal silver-gilt Bowl by Edward Farrell
A Royal George IV silver-gilt Bowl, London 1824, by Edward Farrell, one of thirty-four such bowls in antiquarian taste made for the Duke of York, presumably supplied through Kensington Lewis.
These bowls appeared for sale first in the auction at Christie’s, from 19th to 22nd March 1827, of the Duke of York’s property shortly after his death. Each of the bowls has differing scripts, in quasi seventeenth century lettering, taken from the Bible, usually the Book of Proverbs. Some have two rows of text, some just a single row. In addition, each bowl has identical chased decoration of the arms of James I and of heraldic emblems within an arcaded framework. The design of these bowls was apparently based upon a curious series of early seventeenth-century wooden cups with similar ‘pyrographic’ decoration and, usually, with a date [these dates ranging from 1608 to 1627]. More particularly, two wooden bowls are known, bearing the same form of decoration – one with the date 1611 [now in the Museum of Life in Gloucester]; and another with the date 1610, as also seen on the silver-gilt bowls of 1824, this latter wooden bowl having been in the collection of the 20th century dealer and collector, Owen Evan-Thomas [illustrated in his work ‘Domestic Utensils in Wood’, published in 1932.
The significance of the decoration on the wooden originals remains a puzzle, although various theories have been advanced, and none have a provenance prior to the first half of the 19th century, which might enable an explanation of their significance and purpose. The wood bowl which is now in the Gloucester Museum has an applied silver rim with a George IV hallmark.
The purpose of the silver-gilt bowls, whether for fruit or as finger bowls, is also uncertain. Each bowl appears to have holes where rivets must have originally secured a wooden base to enable movement on a table and prevent damage to the table surface.
The inscriptions on this particular bowl are as follows:
‘He that loveth pastime shalbe a poore man and he that loveth wine and oyle shall not be rich:’ [see Proverbs 21:17] and a band of smaller script below ‘The wicked shall be a ransome for the just, and the transgressour for the righteous,’ [Proverbs 21:18]. The wooden cups and bowls, upon which the silver-gilt bowls are based, differ from the silver-gilt bowls in so far that they have inscriptions which are generally religious in nature but which are not direct Biblical quotations. As H. Clifford Smith observed in his article, ‘Heraldic Wooden Cups of the Jacobean Period‘, Connoisseur January 1924, ‘The somewhat insipid rhymes on all these cups bear, it may be observed, a certain relationship to Sternhold and Hopkins’ well-known metrical versions of the Psalms which reached the height of their popularity around this time’ [i.e. the early 17th century].
Five other examples of the silver-gilt bowl have been referenced in the last few decades: one sold at Mathew Barton, auctioneers, 24/11/2015, lot 329 with a quotation from Proverbs 6:27-35; two which sold recently in Christie’s Interiors sale New York, 20/08/2019, lot 409 [and which had been purchased many years before by me in Sotheby’s Chester before being re-sold in London] one with quotations from Ecclesiasticus 40:20 and Proverbs 10:26, the other with a single inscription from Proverbs 26:20; another privately owned [see .925 Forum https://www.925-1000.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=52017] with a quotation from Proverbs 8:11; and finally, an example sold Christie’s London 12/11/1980, lot 71, with lines from Proverbs Proverbs 15:17.
The interest in antiquarian styles, expressed in silver form, in the early 19th century is discussed in ‘Antiquity Revisited: English and French silver-gilt from the Collection of Audrey Love’, by Anthony Phillips and Jeanne Sloane publ. Christie’s 1997. The Love collection included several highly important pieces of silver-gilt supplied by Kensington Lewis for the Duke of York and made by Farrell. The silver-gilt bowls of 1824 are in a different antiquarian taste from the other pieces supplied to the Duke. It is interesting that, when discussions began to be had concerning the 17th century wooden cups with similar decoration [see Society of Antiquaries, Proceedings 1849, p. 15], reference was made to an example which had been in a Royal collection ‘It is said that a cup of similar fashion and material, decorated with the Royal Arms, was in the collection of H.R.H. the late Duke of Sussex.’ Perhaps Kensington Lewis, who also supplied silver to the Duke of Sussex, was aware of that wooden cup.
The nineteenth-century enthusiasm for antiques is well documented in Mark Westgarth’s ‘The Emergence of the Antique and Curiosity Dealer in Britain 1815-1850 The Commodification of Historical Objects‘, published by Routledge 2020. In that work he draws extensively from the Isaac archive.
Very good with rich gilding. Some light wear to the exterior gilding and some minor marking on the interior surface.
Height – 10.80 cm.; Diameter – 15.10 cm.; Weight – 554.70 gms. [this example is slightly heavier than other examples noted].