Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Silver, Room 69, The Whiteley Galleries

Cistern

1698-1699 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This wine cistern is a fine example of the influence of immigrant French silversmiths on the silver trade in England. The sculptural lion mask handles and the applied strapwork panels decorated with foliage were all Huguenot innovations. Many of the refugee craftsmen settled in the Soho and Covent Garden area of London where Ralph Leeke, who made this cistern, had his workshop. Leeke was born in Shropshire, but apprenticed to the London goldsmith Thomas Littleton. He obtained his freedom in 1671 and worked in Covent Garden from 1686. This cistern was produced by a mature craftsman.

This cistern was one of a pair made for Sir Nathaniel Curzon (d.1718) for use at Kedleston, Derbyshire. It bears the coat of arms of Curzon impaling Colyear for his wife, Catherine. Cisterns were used with fountains and coolers in the service of wine. Glasses were filled at the sideboard, offered to guests on a salver, and brought back for rinsing at the fountain. The cistern below served to catch the water used for rinsing the glasses. Larger silver wine coolers were filled with ice to chill the bottles in preparation for serving the wine.

These massive pieces of silver proclaimed the status of the patron and were prominently displayed at one end of the dining room usually in alcoves fitted with marble shelves.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Silver, cast, chased, embossed and engraved
Brief Description
Cistern, silver, English, mark of Ralph Leake, London 1698-9
Physical Description
The body is decorated with alternate leaves and husk ornament attached to two horizontal bands. Engraved with arms of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, Bart, later Baron Scarsdale of Kedleston, Derbyshire, impaling those of his wife Caroline Colyear. At each end is a lion mask and handle. The foot is decorated with a band of spiral gadrooning and is attached by six bolts and nuts
Dimensions
  • Height: 215mm
  • Width: 609mm
Scratch weight 383=18
Marks and Inscriptions
  • 'Le' above fleur-de lys, in shaped shield (Maker's mark (Hallmark); Gothic)
  • Lion's head erased (Town mark (Hallmark))
  • 'c' (Hallmark; 1698 - 1699)
  • Britannia (Standard mark (Hallmark))
Gallery Label
  • Engraved with the arms of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, later Baron Scarsdale, impaling those of his wife Caroline Colyear. The engraving dates from 1758 when Sir Nathaniel succeeded to the baronetcy and 1761 when he became a peer. Originally matched with a fountain (for water), part of a set in the dining-room at Kedleston. Gallery 56
  • Silver Gallery: This wine cistern is a fine example of the influence of immigrant French silversmiths on the silver trade in England. The sculptural lion mask handles and the applied strapwork panels decorated with foliage were all Huguenot innovations. Many of the refugee craftsmen settled in the Soho and Covent Garden area of London where Ralph Leeke, who made this cistern, had his workshop. Leeke was born in Shropshire, but apprenticed to the London goldsmith Thomas Littleton. He obtained his freedom in 1671 and worked in Covent Garden from 1686. This cistern was produced by a mature craftsman. This cistern was one of a pair made for Sir Nathaniel Curzon (d.1718) for use at Kedleston, Derbyshire. It bears the coat of arms of Curzon impaling Colyear for his wife, Catherine. Cisterns were used with fountains and coolers in the service of wine. Glasses were filled at the sideboard, offered to guests on a salver, and brought back for rinsing at the fountain. The cistern below served to catch the water used for rinsing the glasses. Larger silver wine coolers were filled with ice to chill the bottles in preparation for serving the wine. These massive pieces of silver proclaimed the status of the patron and were prominently displayed at one end of the dining room usually in alcoves fitted with marble shelves.(26/11/2002)
Credit line
Purchased with assistance from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths
Object history
Engraved with the arms of Sir Nathaniel Curzon, later Baron Scarsdale of Kedleston impaling those of his wife Caroline Colyear. The engraving dates to the 1758 when Sir Nathaniel succeeded to the baronetcy , and 1761 when he became a peer.In 1698 Leeke also supplied another cistern and a fountain(Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, London) copying a Paris original of 1660 (Getty Museum, Malibu, California), to make up two sets of fountains and cisterns.



Historical significance: Pairs of cisterns and fountains were considered a mark of wealth and status in the dining chamber. When Lord Scarsdale was equipping Kedleston in the 1760s, he made up two sets using this cistern, another and a fountain, all made by Ralph Leeke in 1698. The fountain was copied from an earlier Paris example of about 1660 also acquired by Scarsdale.
Historical context
Sets of wine cisterns and fountains were part of the ceremonial surrounding the serving of wine in grand dining rooms. Fashionable during the late 17th and first half of the 18th century when glasses were not set on the table, but presented on a salver to dinner guests, water was drawn from the fountain to rinse wine glasses, and swilled into the cistern. In the grandest households, the pair might be en suite with an even larger wine cooler holding bottles of wine to replenish the glass after rinsing.
Summary
This wine cistern is a fine example of the influence of immigrant French silversmiths on the silver trade in England. The sculptural lion mask handles and the applied strapwork panels decorated with foliage were all Huguenot innovations. Many of the refugee craftsmen settled in the Soho and Covent Garden area of London where Ralph Leeke, who made this cistern, had his workshop. Leeke was born in Shropshire, but apprenticed to the London goldsmith Thomas Littleton. He obtained his freedom in 1671 and worked in Covent Garden from 1686. This cistern was produced by a mature craftsman.



This cistern was one of a pair made for Sir Nathaniel Curzon (d.1718) for use at Kedleston, Derbyshire. It bears the coat of arms of Curzon impaling Colyear for his wife, Catherine. Cisterns were used with fountains and coolers in the service of wine. Glasses were filled at the sideboard, offered to guests on a salver, and brought back for rinsing at the fountain. The cistern below served to catch the water used for rinsing the glasses. Larger silver wine coolers were filled with ice to chill the bottles in preparation for serving the wine.



These massive pieces of silver proclaimed the status of the patron and were prominently displayed at one end of the dining room usually in alcoves fitted with marble shelves.
Bibliographic References
  • Penzer N.M. The Great Wine Coolers (Part II) Apollo Sept. 1957
  • Queen Charlotte's loan exhibition of old silver : English Irish and Sottish, all prior to 1739, with examples of present day work, London : Saint Catherine Press, 1929395
Collection
Accession Number
M.30-1965

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record createdJune 1, 1998
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