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Christening cup and cover

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1731 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Feline, Edward (made)

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.1:1 to 3-2014

  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 71, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 1, shelf 3 []

This silver cup and cover was George II’s christening gift to his god-daughter Lady Emilia Lennox (1731-1814), daughter of Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond and Lennox (1701-1750), and wife of James, 20th Earl of Kildare (1722-1773). Born on 6 October 1731, Lady Emilia was baptised three weeks later at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, the parish church closest to the family’s London home, Richmond House, Whitehall. The inscription ‘Lady Emila Lenos October 25th 1731’ indicates that the vessel was presented a week before the child’s christening, and possibly contained the holy water for the ceremony.

Gifts of silver often marked rites of passage, such as marriage, retirement or christening. In the Tudor period it became customary for the king to buy or commission a piece of plate for the baptism of his god-children. This usually took the form of a plain two-handled cup, with a spool-shaped cover. The elaborate nature of this George II cup and cover, with its heraldic ornament, therefore sets it apart from the other royal christening gifts. Emilia’s father himself was probably the one who ensured the design was as grand as possible, as suggested by the wording of the warrant sent to the Keeper of the Jewel House.

The royal quality of the piece is made visible through the use of the royal supporters, the lion and the unicorn as handles, the royal armorial crest which forms the finial and the engraved coat-of-arms in cartouches. Moreover, its larger proportions resemble those of the cups and covers usually produced for ambassadors as part of their official allocation of plate. Lady Emilia took her royal present with her to Ireland when she married the 20th Earl of Kildare, later Duke of Leinster. The christening cup and cover then descended in the Kildare family and acquired an Irish liner in 1856, which may suggest that it was later used on the dining table for serving soup.

A contemporary of Paul de Lamerie, the Huguenot goldsmith Edward Feline (circa 1695 - 1753) was apprenticed to Augustin Courtauld in March 1709. He was not made a freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company until April 1721 but had clearly been working independently for some time already, having established his own workshop in Covent Garden and registered two marks for Sterling and Britannia Standards, in September 1720. While he supplied silver to both royal and noble customers, this christening bowl and cover is the most striking and unusual commission of his documented career.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. The present piece is the latest acquisition of the Gilbert Collection, and is a tribute to Rosalinde and Arthur’s passion for opulence, historical significance and extraordinary craftsmanship.

Physical description

A circular bowl and cover on four volute feet, with two foliage cast and chased handles with the Royal supporters. The body is applied with a band of interlaced strapwork on a matted ground and on either side with a cast scalework and scroll cartouche engraved with the British royal coat-of-arms. The detachable cover is decorated with a gadrooned border and applied with alternate strapwork panels and a royal crest and crown finial. A Victorian Irish silver liner was added in the nineteenth century.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

1731 (made)

Artist/maker

Feline, Edward (made)

Marks and inscriptions

Bowl engraved with the inscription “Lady Emilia Lenos October 25th 1731”; marked Edward Feline, London, 1731

Liner marked ‘RS’, Dublin, 1856, Queen Victoria duty mark, Hibernia

Dimensions

Height: 28.5 cm, Width: 39.5 cm, Depth: 23.5 cm

Object history note

Provenance: King George II, given as christening cup to his goddaughter Lady Emilia Lennox (1731-1814), daughter of Charles, 2nd Duke of Richmond and Lennox (1701-1750), wife of James, 20th Earl of Kildare, created 1st Duke of Leinster; thence by descent to Gerald, 8th Duke of Leinster (1914-2004); Sotheby's, Leinster Sale, 3 May 1984, lot 75; Al-Tajir Collection; Christie's, London, 26-27 November 2013, lot 438.

Historical significance: Born on 6 October 1731, Lady Emilia was christened three weeks later at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, the parish church closest to the family’s home, Richmond House, Whitehall. The entry in the parish register dated 31 October 1731 reveals that her other godparents were Princess Amelia (1711-1786), second daughter of King George II, in honour of whom the baby was named, and Camilla, Countess of Tankerville (1697-1775). The baby was a distant cousin of the king, her father being the grandson of King Charles II by his mistress Louise de Kéroualle, Duchess of Portsmouth (1649-1734).

Descriptive line

Silver christening cup and cover, marked Edward Feline, London, 1731; with silver liner, marked 'RS', Ireland, 1856

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

The Glory of the Goldsmith, Magnificent Gold and Silver from the Al-Tajir Collection, 1989, p. 96.

The Christening cup and cover was lent to Goodwood House, near Chichester, West Sussex for the summer, 2014
http://www.vam.ac.uk/blog/network/a-royal-christening-gift-comes-home
In the early 18th century The Duke of Richmond maintained a menagerie at Goodwood, for the delight and education of his family, so the silver lions reminded his daughter Emily, the recipient of this Royal gift, of the real lion at home in the park.

Murdoch, Tessa. ‘Edward Feline, Goldsmith’, in Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, XXVIII, no.3, pp.316-325.
Trench, Lucy. ‘Richard Chenevix, Bishop of Waterford: A Story of Patronage and Advancement’, in Proceedings of the Huguenot Society, XXVIII, no.3, pp.305-315.

Labels and date

(Gallery 71, case 1)
9. Christening cup and cover
1731
This object was King George II’s (1683–1760) christening gift to his goddaughter Lady Emilia Lennox (1731–1814). English kings had traditionally given two-handled cups to their godchildren since the 16th century. This cup reflects changing customs: perhaps one of the earliest English tureens following new French fashions, it is precious and useful in equal measure.
London, England; Edward Feline (about 1695–1753)
Liner marked ‘RS’, Ireland, 1856
Silver
Museum nos. Loan:Gilbert.1:1 to 3-2014. [16/11/2016]

Materials

Silver

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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