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The Silver Of Our Allies



Author: Francis Hamilton

With so many nations in the world joined in a common struggle and united by bonds of a new idealism, it has been interesting to see the response of the public to museum exhibitions featuring the arts of our Allies. In many of the large cities, the museums have held special exhibitions of the art of China, England, Holland, France, and if Russia has sometimes been omitted it has only been because of lack of material in public collections. The most recent showing of the art of the United Nations has appropriately been held in San Francisco with three museums cooperating.

Examples of silver made in far-flung quarters of the globe and over a period of many centuries. Of particular interest and importance are the Russian examples All are characteristic Russian types and are pieces of historic provenance since they come from the former Imperial collections. A rare silver charka made in the early seventeenth century. The word charka means a small chara, or cup.In design it is very much like the American porringer.It was, however, a cup for the drinking of brandy or other strong liquor, and not for gruel or soft food for which the 'porringer was intended. The charka has long been in use in Russia; one is mentioned by an English merchant, Anthony Jenkinson, who visited Russia between 1557 and 1571. The charka was used for domestic occasions and also in the ritual of the Greek Orthodox service. The example now in the Hammer Galleries collection was used in the TroitskiSergievski Monastery, as named in the Slavonic inscription around the bowl. More recently it came from the Imperial Chapel of the Feodorovski Cathedral at Tsarskove Selo.

Like the charka, the kovsh is a typical Russian form. The peasant had a Kovsh made of wood but the wealthy man used one of silver or gold. In form the kovsh was boat-shaped and had a single ladlelike handle and it was actually used for ladling out drinks, including quass and beer. When the Imperial double-headed eagle is seen, it means that it was a presentation from a Tsar to a noble or some one he wished to honor. The band of Slavonic characters around the rim records that he presented it in 1715 to Sergei Trodgovin Godjeleski of the Cossack Military Post. In the reign of Anne I, 1730-1740. There was a close connection between Russian and French art in the late eighteenth century instituted by Catherine the Great which continued on until the early part of the nineteenth. There are at present in the collection of Hannner Galleries three handsome pieces of silver made by the French silversmith Martin Guillaume Biennais, one of the great masters of the Empire period who worked for Napoleon I. All were made about 1820.

Another rare piece of English silver is the cup and dover, which was made for William and Mary and shows their cipher and crown; it was the work of Anthony Nelme, a famous London goldsmith and was made between 1689 and 1694. The spice boxs made in 1620, introduced at the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth and not made later than 1660. The shell design was then fashionable, reminding us of the present interest in shell forms in jewelry. Another characteristic English form possessing decorative interest as well as practical value is the caster.

South American silver of the Spanish Colonial period possesses great interest because it combines typical Renaissance motifs employed by Spanish silversmiths with design elements taken from Indian tradition. It was the quest for silver and gold that led the Spaniards into South America and it was not long after Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Concepcion were settled that native Spanish silversmiths were working there. However, there were not enough Spanish workers to meet the demand for objects in silver which poured so freely into Spanish hands. There were, however, a number of Indian craftsmen who were already accustomed to working in silver. The Indians began to fashion objects showing the form of decoration used by their Spanish overlords and once having become familiar with the designs, introduced such symbols as the plumed serpent, and all the animals and birds which are in the train of the native Sun God.



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