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Sauce boat

Sauce boat

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    1773-1774 (hallmarked)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Adam, Robert, born 1728 - died 1792 (designer)
    Carter, John (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver, chased, cast and engraved

  • Credit Line:

    Acquired with the assistance of the Phillips Trust Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    British Galleries, Room 118, The Wolfson Gallery, case 5

Object Type
The sauce boat, a vessel for serving sauce, arrived in Britain from the French Court in the early 18th century, along with the fashion for sauces. An early pair was supplied by the Jewel Office (a state department storing, lending and buying silver for officials) to John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll, in 1719. The first sauceboats were double-lipped; forms which poured from one lip only became popular after 1730. Sauce boats were often sold in sets of four, although one of the largest and grandest dinner services, made for James Fitzgerald, 1st Duke of Leinster (1722-1773), contained ten.

These sauce boats were designed by the architect Robert Adam (1728-1792). He was commissioned by a leading British patron of the arts, Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, 4th Baronet of Wynnstay, who had inherited the extensive Wynnstay estates in North Wales and Shropshire. Even with an income of £27,000 a year, Williams-Wynn spent so lavishly in the early 1770s that by 1776 he had debts of £100,000. The sauce boats were part of a 'Great Table Service' which cost £2,408 18s. Adam, the architect of Williams-Wynn's London house at 20, St James Square, supplied silver designs to his client as part of a grand scheme to integrate the interior detailing of the dining room. To order a complete service at the same time was unusual, but to commission designs on paper for every component was exceptional. Adam's designs for the sauce boats are in Sir John's Soane's Museum, London.

Retailer & Manufacturer
Surviving bills show that the retailer of the sauce boats was a London goldsmith, Joseph Creswell, the son of a Bond Street jeweller. His shop was at the corner of the Adelphi, a building complex on the Strand designed by the Adam brothers. Perhaps Robert Adam recommended the goldsmith to his client. As a retailer, Creswell did not make the silver, and the manufacture of the sauce boats has been attributed to the silversmith John Carter. A vital register of marks entered between 1758 and 1773 is missing from Goldsmiths' Hall, which makes a definitive identification of the maker impossible from current evidence.

Physical description

Sauceboat of silver and gilt, engraved with the coat of arms of Sir William Watkins Wynn. The sauceboat has an oval bowl, partially lobed and embossed, the outer rim decorated with egg and tongue ornament, the inner rim with repeated spheres. The pedestal foot is partially lobed (cast), and has an interlacement band. Bifurcated, twisted scroll handles spring from leaf terminals at the bowl. The arms of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn are engraved within a circle of husking.

Place of Origin

London (made)


1773-1774 (hallmarked)


Adam, Robert, born 1728 - died 1792 (designer)
Carter, John (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Silver, chased, cast and engraved


Height: 13.7 cm, Width: 14.1 cm, Depth: 21.9 cm

Object history note

Made in London, possibly by John Carter II (active 1769-1777)

Descriptive line

Silver and gilt sauceboat designed by Robert Adam, London, 1773-1774.

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

Fairclough, Oliver. Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn and Robert Adam: Commissions for Silver 1768-80. The Burlington Magazine 137 (no.1107) (June 1995), 376-386.

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Neo-classical designers adapted classical forms to modern vessels.The architect Robert Adam based this design on a classical lamp. The sauceboats are from a silver service Adam designed for the dining room of the London house of Sir Watkins Williams Wynn (1749-1789). [27/03/2003]


Metalwork; Food vessels & Tableware; British Galleries; Scotland


Metalwork Collection

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