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Spice dish

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1573-1574 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Flint, Roger (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver-gilt; engraved

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with Art Fund support and assistance from the Murray Bequest

  • Museum number:

    M.55D-1946

  • Gallery location:

    Silver, Room 65, The Whiteley Galleries, case 1

This is one of six related silver-gilt dishes in the V&A collections which may originally have been part of a larger group of twelve. They are rare examples of silver intended for dessert, or 'banqueting', a costly course of fruits and sweetmeats which came after the main meal and was often enjoyed in a separate location. At the royal palaces of Hampton Court and Nonesuch, a select few (perhaps six to eight people) would have had their senses pleased in an intimate banqueting house where all accoutrements were as luxurious as the food served. Dessert was an opportunity for hosts to flatter guests with very expensive rareities such as refined sugar from Cyprus or Madeira. A silver dish for meat would have been plain, but dessert dishes, like this one, were elaborately decorated with fine engraving or chasing (designs hammered into relief) and were often gilded. Sometimes they were made from another precious material such as mother of pearl, painted glass or tortoiseshell.

The mid 17th century coat of arms engraved on the V&A dishes hides an earlier erased coat of arms. Faint traces of the earlier one can be seen, enough to identify the original owner as William Cecil, 1st Lord Burghley, who was Lord Treasurer and chief advisor to Elizabeth I and one of the richest and most accomplished patrons of the arts of the 16th century. The lack of wear on the dishes raises the possibility that while they followed the pattern of dessert dishes, they may have been used primarily for display on a sideboard or 'buffet' rather than for use. The exquisite and complex scheme of engraving on each dish would certainly be seen to better advantage. The engraver combines a border of fashionable arabesque ornament (scrolls of pointed leaves) encompassing birds, animals and monsters with fantastical marine scenes in the well of each dish surrounding a biblical scene in the centre.

Physical description

Spice dish, (one of a set of six, engraved with scenes from the stories of Abraham and Issac), silver-gilt, engraved with with the scene of Issac greeting Rebecca, shown with her companion and three camels, surrounded by fanatstic marine monsters. The rim engraved with panels filled with birds and beasts amdist foliage and roundels engraved with birds and a coat of arms.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

1573-1574 (made)

Artist/maker

Flint, Roger (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silver-gilt; engraved

Marks and inscriptions

Struck on the rim of the dish:
Maker's mark 'RF' in a shaped punch, probably Roger Flint; Sterling mark, a lion passant; London town mark a crowned leopard's head; date-letter 'q' in a shield-shaped punch for 1573-1574.

A shield charged with three lozenges conjoined in fess within a border; above the lozenges an anulet.
The arms are pounced on the rim and replace an earlier coat positioned there. They are probably those of William Montagu of Oakley, Bedfordshire (died 1691).

Dimensions

Diameter: 25.2 cm, Height: 2.8 cm, Weight: 525 g

Object history note

Three identical coats of arms were originally engraved on the rim of this bowl. Two have been mostly erased and hidden by scrolling foliage ornament, the third is covered by a later coat of arms. Close examination of these traces reveals the original arms to be those of William Cecil, first Lord Burghley (1520-98), Lord Treasurer to Elizabeth I (Schroder: 2004, pp. 3-4). The later arms are those of the Montagu family, and may refer to William Montagu of Oakley, Bedfordshire, fifth son of Lord Chief Justice Sir Edward Montagu (d. 1556). This is one of six similar engraved plates, all with Montagu arms, which appear to have remained in the possession of the family from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, when they were sent to auction at Christie's, London, by Captain Frederick Montagu who had inherited the plates from his uncle, Andrew Montagu of Ingmanthorpe Hall, Yorkshire, and Papplewick Hall, Nottinghamshire. The Museum purchased all six plates at the sale on July 3rd, 1946.

Descriptive line

Silver-gilt dish, London hallmarks for 1573-74, mark of Roger Flint, engraved with scrolling ornament, sea monsters and a central scene from the Old Testament Book of Genesis depicting Isaac greeting Rebecca, shown with her companion and three camels.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Oman, Charles and Jonathan Mayne. Six Elizabethan Silver-Gilt Plates. The Burlington Magazine. July 1947, vol. 89, pp. 182 and 184-87.
Glanville, Philippa. Silver in Tudor and Early Stuart England. A Social History and Catalogue of the National Collection 1480-1660. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1990. ISBN 1851770305
Schroder, Timothy. Lord Burghley's silver spice dishes. Apollo. February 2004, vol. 159, pp. 3-12.
Taylor, Gerald. Some London platemakers' marks, 1558-1624', Proceedings of the Silver Society. 1984, vol. III.4, pp. 97-100.

Labels and date

SET OF SIX SPICE PLATES
Silver-gilt
London, 1573-4
Mark: FR conjoined
The engraved sea-monsters are similar to engravings by Adriaen Collaert of Antwerp (about 1560-1618) and the birds in roundels derive from engravings by Virgil Solis of Nuermberg (1514-1562). The engraving, of unusually high quality, is attributed to the engraver P over M, presumably a foreign visitor to London. The arms of Montague on the rim have been added later.
Acquired with funds from the Murray Bequest and the National Art- Collections Fund
M.55 to F-1946 [pre-2001]
7. Four spice bowls
Silver-gilt
London, 1573-4
Mark of Roger Flynt
From a rare Elizabethan silver dessert or banqueting set. The rich engraving and gilding marked the importance of the final course of the meal, the 'banquet', which usually consisted of expensive sugar-based sweetmeats and fruit. The engraving on the rims, wells and centre of each bowl is in three distinct styles but the sources have not yet been precisely identified. The centres depict the biblical stories of 'Abraham entertaining three angels', ' Rebecca at the well', 'Meeting of Isaac and Rebecca' and 'Jacob steals the blessing of Isaac'. A possible source for the marine creatures engraving in the wells is the work of Adriaen Collaert of Antwerp, who published designs in the late 16th century.
M. 55 a, c, d, e-1946 [2001-2011]

Materials

Silver; Gold

Techniques

Amalgam gilding; Engraving; Raising

Subjects depicted

Camels; Coats of arms; Sea monsters; Beasts; Birds; Foliage

Categories

Food vessels & Tableware; Metalwork

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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