In The Manner Of De Lamerie

By David Whitbread

I am grateful to Daniel and Michael for the photos accompanying this piece which I hope make it possible to compare two spoons of similar pattern. Though the pattern has been illustrated in the Finial before, my excuse for writing is that two differing examples have not been illustrated side by side.

They are:
a) A decorated Hanoverian dessert spoon by Lothian and Robertson, Edinburgh, 1761, 17.6cm, 40.9gr. The date letter is incomplete but I think the date is right.
b) An unmarked decorated Hanoverian tablespoon of c.1730/40, 19.3cm, 67.7gr.

I acquired the dessert spoon inexpensively early in my collecting career and was quite pleased with myself for finding an example of a relatively unusual pattern. I was aware that in his 'Silver Flatware' Ian Pickford illustrates an unmarked tablespoon in this pattern described as the sort of design one would expect from Paul de Lamerie (whose mark is found on spoons with a similar wavy decoration). However, if my dessert spoon was a copy, I found myself wondering what was so marvellous about this de Lamerie design.

Since acquiring it I have noted a number of other Lothian and Robertson spoons in this pattern (most recently lot 252 in the Martin Gubbins sale), all dessert spoons and, as far as I can recall, all of the same date. It is dangerous to jump to conclusions but I wonder whether the makers were commissioned to make a large set of dessert spoons to accompany earlier tablespoons rather than having this as one of their standard patterns. Of course the Martin Gubbins group included later spoons by a different maker suggesting that a further need for dessert spoons then arose, perhaps when the set was dispersed. However, all that is mere speculation.

It was only when I acquired the tablespoon (not quite as inexpensively) that I understood how attractive the pattern could be and the temptation to ascribe such unmarked spoons to de Lamerie. I have only seen one other example, a nice specimen shown by Walter Brown at the get-together in Swindon a while ago (see The Finial, Jan/Feb 2002, p.120).

I am not sure how closely my spoon matches Walter's. It is not an exact match for the one Ian Pickford illustrates (the drop is a little different, for example, and it is not crested) but I am confident it is of around the same date. My purpose in writing is simply to compare and contrast it with the later dessert spoon since I find the differences interesting.

The dessert spoon is a reasonable weight for a spoon of its size, but the tablespoon is really substantial. The side view of the two stems shows the difference in gauge. This difference allows the wavy decoration and the rat-tail like ridge on the larger spoon to be much more boldly modelled - see the detail of the two stem ends. I also find the proportions of the larger spoon much more graceful. In effect, the later dessert spoon seems like a debased and cheaper version of the pattern. So, with two examples of an unusual pattern, I shall keep the dessert spoon simply because it is interesting and unusual. But I shall keep the tablespoon as a really desirable piece in its own right whether or not in the absence of marks I choose to daydream that it came from the de Lamerie workshop.


The Finial, February/March 2003

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