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Table Lectern

  • Place of origin:

    Powys (designed and made)

  • Date:

    1983-1989 (designed and made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Osman, Louis, born 1914 - died 1996 (designer and maker)
    Osman, Dilys (enameller)
    El Hadi, Rashid (engraver)
    Knight, Michael (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, raised and soldered, decorated with engraving and niello.

  • Credit Line:

    Commissioned by Sir Roy Strong for the Victoria and Albert Museum

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Louis Osman was born in Exeter in 1914. He trained at the Bartlett School of Architecture and studied drawing at the Slade School of Art. As a goldsmith, he was responsible for the `demi-crown' used for the the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969 (now on loan to the National Museum of Wales), and for the Golden Gift of the Magna Carta, presented by the British Government to the United States of America as a bicentennial gift in 1976. He had a one-man show at Goldsmiths' Hall in 1974. He collaborated with Graham Sutherland on the Ely Crucifix (now in the Dallas Museum of Art; examples of a limited edition are in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the National Museum of Wales). As an architect, his work has included the restoration of the north side of Cavendish Square (with Epstein as sculptor), and the Principal's Lodging, Newnham College, Cambridge. He was responsible for the substantial renovation of a house for his fellow goldsmith, Gerald Benney.

Physical description

Table Lectern. The rectangular platen is supported by a central column, which together with the platen itself, revolves on an internal spiral thread to increase or decrease its height. It is locked at the height chosen by a square-headed screw. The column rises out of a large sphere which is held in a U-shaped arc, the foot of which passes through a heavy glass plinth to rest directly on a black wooden baseboard. The sphere is placed in an aperture in the middle of a horizontal, rectangular table which is supported at the corners by four legs which descend to the glass sheet which they hold while resting lightly on the black baseboard.

The sphere (and therefore the column and platen) can be tilted to varying angles by means of a peg and hole rack which curves, at the back of the lectern, from the horizontal table down to the foot of the U-shaped arc. The table and the sphere are engraved, and partly nielloed.

The sphere is engraved on top with a radiating sun beneath which are, at the foot of the sphere, the face of a woodwose with oak leaves, and, at the back, a moon with stars on a nielloed ground. Beneath the face is a monogram of the letters V and A, (Victoria and Albert Museum), which rises from an area of darkness inhabited by a hydra and an octopus. The horizontal table is engraved with waves, fish, seaweed and shells, and behind the sphere, with a large crab on a niello ground.

From the front of the platen an irregular oval in rock crystal hangs at the centre which contains an enamelled phoenix by Dilys Osman. The pendant is partly illuminated by a shaft of light directed from the fluorescent tube lighting the platen.

A fluorescent light fitting is concealed within the folded edge along the upper edge of the platen and is powered by a cable attached to a three pin plug.

Place of Origin

Powys (designed and made)


1983-1989 (designed and made)


Osman, Louis, born 1914 - died 1996 (designer and maker)
Osman, Dilys (enameller)
El Hadi, Rashid (engraver)
Knight, Michael (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silver, raised and soldered, decorated with engraving and niello.

Marks and inscriptions

London hallmarks for Britannia silver, 1986
Stamped on the rear edge of the platten

Mark of Louis Osman

RE EL H and MK conjoined
On the left of the back of the table

dilys osman enamellist. 1987
Inscribed on the back of a circular disc behind the phoenix and beneath the enamel


Height: 61 cm, Width: 51.6 cm, Depth: 38.8 cm

Object history note

Commissioned by Sir Roy Strong, Director of the V&A, 1973-1987, for the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was initially placed in 1983 and was intended to form part of the collection of Director's plate; a number of items commissioned for use, as well as for inclusion in the permanent collections. Other examples are a pair of candelabra by Robert Welch and the Carrington Cup by Kevin Coates.

A wooden trolley with heavy iron pincers was designed with the lectern to enable it to be moved around the Museum and in and out of a showcase. It was made by John Nethercott of Hereford. The black wooden plinth was made in the V&A Joiners' Workshop.

The registered paper for the commissioning of the lectern contain an extensive correspondence, including sketches and copies of letters from Louis Osman to the contributing artists. There are also photogrpahs of the interior of the lectern.

Descriptive line

Table Lectern, Britannia silver, partly decorated with niello, rock crystal pendant with gold and enamel, glass base, United Kingdom, London hallmarks for 1986, designed and made by Louis Osman (1914-1996), with assistance from Dilys Osman (enamel), Rashid El Hadi (engraving), Mick Knight (engraving and other work), Peter Musgrove, Wally Gilbert, Ra Bonevitz (rock crystal), Tim Gibbs and Andy Marsden, 1983-90.

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

Graham Hughes, "Contemporary Silver" in The History of Silver, ed. Claude Blair, London, 1987, p.217.


Britannia standard silver


Raising; Soldering; Engraving; Niello

Subjects depicted

Sun; Moon; Hydra; Face; Monogram; Seaweed; Waves; Oak leaf; Phoenix; Crab; Octopus; Stars; Fish; Shells


Furniture; Metalwork

Production Type



Metalwork Collection

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