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  • Place of origin:

    Birmingham (made)

  • Date:

    1868 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    V&A Reproduction Department (commissioned by)
    Elkington & Co. (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Electrotype copy of silver-gilt original

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 58, Bromley-by-Bow Room, case WN, shelf EXP

Object Type
This electrotype basin is a copy of a silver-gilt basin acquired by George IV in 1816 for the Royal Collection, where it remains. The 16th-century original was made in London by an unidentified maker, whose punched mark consists of the initials TN above a flower head.

Ownership & Use
In the 16th and early 17th centuries, ewers and basins filled with sweet-scented water were ceremonially offered to guests during and after dining, so they could wash their hands. Such vessels would also have played a prominent role on the sideboard or 'buffet', often being the largest items and frequently gilded and decorated in the latest fashion. The buffet display was designed to impress guests with the wealth and sophistication of the host. Therefore, ewers and basins became the standard diplomatic gift in Europe.

Materials & Making
The technique of reproducing objects by electrotyping was first developed by the manufacturing firm of Elkington & Co. of Birmingham in the 1840s. Henry Cole (1808-82), the first director of the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A), was quick to adopt this new technique to reproduce works of art. A plaster mould is made from an original object and used to make a cast in base metal. The model and an amount of plating metal are connected to electric terminals and placed in a container filled with a conductive solution. As it passes through, the electric current causes particles of the plating metal to be deposited on the surface of the model. The thickness of the plating can be regulated by the duration and voltage of the current. The plated object is then worked manually to erase imperfections.

Place of Origin

Birmingham (made)


1868 (made)


V&A Reproduction Department (commissioned by)
Elkington & Co. (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Electrotype copy of silver-gilt original


Depth: 5.5 cm, Diameter: 49 cm

Object history note

Original made in London by an unidentified maker 'TN above a flower head' in 1595-6
Made by Elkington & Co., Birmingham

Descriptive line


Labels and date

British Galleries:

The custom of melting down silver to remake it in newly-fashionable forms means that few pieces have survived from the 16th or early 17th centuries. These pieces are copies, made between 1868 and 1888 of the kinds of silver that might have been displayed on a court cupboard in about 1620. [27/03/2003]

Production Note

After original of 16th century; Original made in London by an unidentified maker 'TN above a flower head' in 1595-6




Eating; Metalwork


Metalwork Collection

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