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  • Place of origin:

    Paris (marked)

  • Date:

    1789-90 (marked)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Auguste, Henri, born 1759 - died 1816 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Raised, cast, chased, punched, moulded and engraved silver-gilt.

  • Credit Line:

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

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 71, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 5

This ewer was made by French silversmith Henri Auguste (1759-1816). Based in Paris, Auguste sold his pieces to elite society across Europe. He often worked with draftsman and sculptor Jean-Guillaume Moitte, who provided the design for this ewer.

William Beckford (1760-1844) was one of the wealthiest patrons and collectors of the period. He amassed an incredible collection of antiquities and decorative arts at his home Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire. Beckford first encountered Henri Auguste's silver in Madrid in 1787. He admired the quality of Auguste’s innovative neoclassical pieces. In 1802 he purchased this ewer and its basin directly from Auguste.

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. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

Silver-gilt ewer of oval form standing on a spreading foot, and with a waisted neck, decorated with bands of acanthus, stylised foliage and beading, the scroll handle in the form of two serpents springs from a mask of Mercury. From a design by Jean-Guillaume Moitte.

Place of Origin

Paris (marked)


1789-90 (marked)


Auguste, Henri, born 1759 - died 1816 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Raised, cast, chased, punched, moulded and engraved silver-gilt.

Marks and inscriptions

1798-1809 Paris, first standard mark

1789-90 warder's mark

1789-92 charge mark

signed under foot


Height: 43.5 cm, Width: 22.5 cm, Depth: 15.75 cm, Weight: 3400 g

Object history note

Provenance: William Beckford, Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire, sale, Christie's, lot 78, 79, 80 or 81, October 9, 1822. John Farquhar. Jacques Kugel, Paris. Sale, Sotheby's, Monte Carlo, June 24, 1986, lot 1601.

Descriptive line

Silver-gilt ewer, Paris, 1789-90, Henri Auguste

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

Snodin, Michael and Baker, Malcolm. 'William Beckford's Silver II', The Burlington Magazine, December 1980, vol. 122, p. 828, Appendix E20, pp. 735-48, pp. 820-34, fig. 15
Frégnac, Claude, ed. Les Grandes Orfèvres de Louis XIII à Charles X. Paris: Hachette 1965, pp.270-71
Schroder, Timothy. The Gilbert collection of gold and silver. Los Angeles (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) 1988, cat. no.168, pp. 617-621. ISBN.0875871445

Labels and date

3, 4. Ewer and basin

This ewer and basin were originally owned by the famous collector William Beckford. He bought them directly from their maker, Henri Auguste, in Paris in 1802. Auguste supplied silver to fashionable British and French clients. He often worked with sculptor Jean-Guillaume Moitte, who produced the design for this basin (displayed in the drawer below).

Paris, France; Henri Auguste (1759–1816), from a design by Jean-Guillaume Moitte (1746–1810)
Gilded silver
Museum nos. Loan:Gilbert.736, 737-2008 [16/11/2016]




Raising; Casting; Chasing; Punching; Moulding; Engraving (incising); Gilding

Subjects depicted

Ivy; Snakes


Containers; Drinking; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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