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Dish

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1490-1500 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Pewter, cast

  • Credit Line:

    Alfred Yeates Bequest

  • Museum number:

    M.39-1945

  • Gallery location:

    Medieval & Renaissance, Room 10a, The Françoise and Georges Selz Gallery, case 3

This is one of 20 similar dishes dating from about 1500 found during building work at Guy's Hospital, London in 1899. The dishes may have been part of the household pewter of Arthur, Prince of Wales, Henry VII's eldest son and Henry VIII's older brother. On their outer rims the dishes bear the crown and feather stamp of the heir apparent to the English throne. They also compare in style to late 15th century dishes and they were found near the site of Arthur's palace at Kennington.

Pewter was part of everyday life until the 19th century. Eating, drinking, celebrating, lighting rooms and taking communion all required long-lasting, affordable objects. This dish has knife scratch marks on its surface, a sign of frequent use.

The hardness and lustre of this dish suggest a high quality pewter. Pewter is an alloy or mixture of metals consisting primarily of tin. Adding metals such as copper and antimony makes pewter harder and more durable. The best alloys contain over 90% tin.

As a good piece of medieval dining pewter, and as part of a surviving set, this dish is extremely rare. Giving it even greater significance is the fact that it bears an early example of a maker's touch. In England, the Worshipful Company of Pewterers was established in 1478 to take control of the expanding pewter trade. On completing an apprenticeship, pewterers were required to register a 'touchmark' to be stamped on their wares, which had to meet set standards of quality. Inspectors or 'searchers' from the Company travelled around England visiting workshops and testing items. Substandard wares, often containing too much lead, incurred fines and were liable to destruction. The 'bell' touch mark on this dish has not been identified.

Physical description

Shallow pewter dish with broad, slightly concave rim, the centre raised as a shallow dome, the rim bearing a distinctive stamp of a crowned feather. The dish overall has a bright lustre where it has been cleaned aggressively but this has left darker patches in the recessed areas. The reverse is much darker. Two fractures running from the centre of the dish to the rim have been repaired, and signed, 'HJLJM' for HJLJ Massé.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

1490-1500 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Pewter, cast

Marks and inscriptions

On dish reverse, centre, maker's touch, a stamped 'bell' mark, half erased
Corresponds to Cotterell, Old Pewter, No. 6098

A.S.Law in "Another Feather Dish", Journal of the Pewter Society, Vol. 5, No. 2, Autumn 1985, suggests this may be the mark of William Sexteyn, 7 times Master of the Worshipful Company of Pewterers between 1482 and 1503.

Ron Homer in "Crowned Feather Plates and Henry VIII's Coronation", Journal of the Pewter Society, Vol. 7, No. 2, Autumn 1989, suggests these dishes are slightly later and ascribes the mark tentatively to William Hurstwaight, described on his 1526 tomb as 'pewterer to the king'.

On upper rim, a stamped ownership mark, a crowned feather
This is the crown and feather motif of the heir apparent to the English throne.

On reverse, outer rim in line with fracture repairs: HJLJM
Initials of Henri Jean Louis Joseph Massé, pewterer, restorer and author in London at the turn of the 20th century

Dimensions

Diameter: 34.0 cm, Depth: 3.2 cm Rim bent; highest point, Weight: 1.12 kg

Object history note

The plate bears the crown and feather motif of the heir apparent to the English throne. It may have been part of the household pewter of Prince Arthur, Henry VIII's older brother who died in 1502.

The main body of the V&A's pewter collection grew from several large bequests including the Alfred Yeates Bequest, from which this dish came. Yeates left his collection, mainly of 17th and 18th century English pewter to the Museum in 1944. It includes a fine series of late 17th century mugs, tankards and salts and a few highly important early wares including this dish.

Before Alfred Yeates owned the dish it belonged to F.G. Hilton-Price, a prominent collector and author on pewter in the early 20th century.

Historical significance: This is one of 20 similar dishes dating from about 1500 found during building work at Guy's Hospital, London in 1899. These dishes have been the subject of much study by medieval historians and members of the Pewter Society ever since.

The dishes have for many years been associated with Arthur, Prince of Wales, Henry VIII's older brother. They bear the crown and feather stamp of the heir apparent to the English throne, they compare in style to other late fifteenth-century dishes and they were found near the site of Arthur's palace at Kennington.

It has also been suggested that these dishes once formed part of a pewter service made for the coronation of Henry VIII in 1509 that was subsequently dispersed.

Another possibility is that they have no royal provenance at all but belonged to an inn named, 'The Prince of Wales', although no inn bearing that name is known near the site of the hoard's find.

As a good piece of medieval dining pewter, and as part of a surviving set, this dish is extremely rare. Giving it even greater significance is the fact that it bears an early example of a maker's touch (see Marks & Inscriptions). In England, the Worshipful Company of Pewterers was established in 1478 to take control of the expanding pewter trade. On completing an apprenticeship, pewterers were required to register a 'touchmark' to be stamped on their wares, which had to meet set standards of quality. Inspectors or 'searchers' from the Company travelled around England visiting workshops and testing items. Substandard wares, often containing too much lead, incurred fines and were liable to destruction.

Other dishes from the hoard are at the British Museum, Museum of London, The Worshipful Company of Pewterers and in private ownership.

Historical context note

Pewter was part of everyday life until the 19th century. Eating, drinking, celebrating, lighting rooms and taking communion all required long-lasting, affordable objects. This dish has knife scratch marks on its surface, a sign of frequent use.

The hardness and lustre of this dish suggest a high quality pewter. Pewter is an alloy or mixture of metals consisting primarily of tin. Adding metals such as copper and antimony makes pewter harder and more durable. The best alloys contain over 90% tin. Pewter's low melting point makes it suitable for casting, though early casting moulds were expensive

Before 1800 lead was allowed in 'lay metal', a lower-quality alloy used for measures and boxes. Soft lead made casting easier, but was poisonous, so it was forbidden in 'flatware' such as plates, dishes and porringers. Tests do reveal small amounts of up to 2%. Modern pewter contains no lead.

The Museum bought European pewter as early as the 1850s. An interest in English pewter grew after 1900 and increased with the foundation of the Pewter Society in 1918.

Descriptive line

Pewter, London, 1490-1500, one of 20 dug up in 1899 during building work on Guy's Hospital and bearing the crown and feather stamp of the heir apparent to the English throne and therefore possibly part of the household pewter of Arthur, Prince of Wales (1485-1502)

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

Stahl, Patricia, Band III: Ausstellung zur Geschichte der Frankfurter Messe, Brucke Zwischen den Volkern, Frankfurt Historical Museum, Germany, May 1991, p. 114, Cat. I. 15. 17
Cotterell, Howard Herschel, Old Pewter: Its Maker and Marks in England, Scotland and Ireland, Batsford, London, 1929, p. 387, No. 6098
Ron Homer, "Crowned Feather Plates and Henry VIII's Coronation", Journal of the Pewter Society, Vol. 7, No. 2, Autumn 1989, pp. 47-8
Law, A.S., "Another Feather Dish", Journal of the Pewter Society, Vol. 5, No. 2, Autumn 1985, pp. 61-65
Marks, Richard, and Williamson, Paul, eds., Gothic: Art for England 1400-1547, V&A Publications, London, October 2003, p. 324, Cat. 197
Hornsby, Peter R.G., Weinstein, Rosemary and Homer, Ronald F., Pewter: A Celebration of the Craft 1200-1700, Exhibition Catalogue, Museum of London, May 1989-May 1990, p. 57, Cat. 27
Supplementary Catalogue of Pewterware, 1979, The Worshipful Company of Pewterers of London, 1979, p. 13, Cat. S/103, S/104 (illustrated pp. 18-19)
Peal, Christopher A., British Pewter and Britannia Metal, John Gifford, London, 1971, pp87-88
Campbell, Marian. 'Found in London, made in London - London connections for some medieval metalwork in the Victoria & Albert Museum'. In: 'Hidden Histories and Records of Antiquity': Essays on Saxon and Medieval London for John Clark, Curator Emeritus, Museum of London, ed. by Jonathan Cotton, Jenny Hall, Jackie Keily, Roz Sherris and Roy Stephenson. London and Middlesex Archaeological Society Special Paper, 17. London: London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, 2014. ISBN 9780903290685.

Labels and date

Belinda Gentle Metalware Gallery (Room 116)

DISH
Cast pewter
England; 1490-1500
Owner's mark a crowned feather
The plate bears the crown and feather motif of the heir apparent to the English throne. It may have been part of the household pewter of Prince Arthur, Henry VIII's older brother who died in 1502. It was one of 20 similar dishes dating from about 1500 found during building work at Guy's Hospital in 1899, near the site of Arthur's palace at Kennington.
Yeates Bequest
Museum no. M.39-1945 [November 2004]

Production Note

Maker possibly William Sexteyn or possibly William Hurstwaight (see Marks & Inscriptions)

Materials

Pewter

Techniques

Casting; Turning

Categories

Eating; Household objects; Metalwork; Royalty

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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