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Centrepiece thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 70, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries

Centrepiece

1985 (hallmarked)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This life-size naturalistic rendition of a mute swan demonstrates the skill of Goldsmiths working in the late-twentieth century. Designed as a table centrepiece, it was sold in New York shortly after it was made in London. It is testament to the continued mastery of London makers, as well as their international standing.

From the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan to Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, swans have a long and illustrious history in art and literature. This silver swan was probably inspired by the Bowes Museum’s swan automata, which was made in the eighteenth century by James Cox.

Swans have traditionally been under the protection of the British crown. Although this was initially to ensure that there was enough swan meat available to feed hungry royals, it is now a conservation effort. Every year a ceremony called Swan Upping takes place on the River Thames, the Queen’s Swan Marker counts every swan to ensure they are not declining in numbers.

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 transferred his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Sterling silver; hand-raised and cast components, the surface finely hand-chased throughout. The bill is parcel-gilt, the bill area and knuckles are oxidised.
Brief Description
Centrepiece in the shape of a mute swan, parcel-gilt and patinated silver, hallmarked London, Asprey & Co plc, 1985.
Physical Description
Life-size model of an English mute swan in sterling silver.
Dimensions
  • Length: 72cm
  • Width: 39cm
  • Weight: 350oz
  • Height: 39cm (ca.)
Weight taken in 1985
Marks and Inscriptions
  • & A Co plc? (Asprey & Co plc) (Maker's / Sponsor's mark; quatrefoil)
  • Lion passant for sterling silver. (Standard mark)
  • London (Assay master's mark)
  • 1985 (Date letter)
Gallery Label
(Gallery 70, case 7) Swan centrepiece 1985 This naturalistic silver mute swan (Cygnus olor) took pride of place at Arthur and Rosalinde’s villa in Los Angeles, either gliding elegantly along a sideboard or placed on the dinner table. Made in London in 1985, it demonstrates the continuity of skilled craftsmanship in the capital. The swan complements the bird-shaped 16th and 17th-century cups displayed in this room. Today this magnificent bird has become a mascot of the Gilbert Collection. London, Asprey & Co. plc Partially gilded and patinated silver, platinum Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.860-2008(16/11/2016)
Credit line
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Object history
The mute swan is a bequest from the personal collection of Sir Arthur Gilbert and his first wife Rosalinde. It was displayed in their dining room in Los Angeles. Sir Arthur admired the swan both for the quality of the craftsmanship and the subject matter.



Asprey & Co. plc existed from 17 September 1985 until 1 September 1998 when purchased by Garrard & Co. The swan was probably based on the 18th century silver swan by James Cox housed at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham, England.
Summary
This life-size naturalistic rendition of a mute swan demonstrates the skill of Goldsmiths working in the late-twentieth century. Designed as a table centrepiece, it was sold in New York shortly after it was made in London. It is testament to the continued mastery of London makers, as well as their international standing.



From the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan to Wagner’s opera Lohengrin, swans have a long and illustrious history in art and literature. This silver swan was probably inspired by the Bowes Museum’s swan automata, which was made in the eighteenth century by James Cox.



Swans have traditionally been under the protection of the British crown. Although this was initially to ensure that there was enough swan meat available to feed hungry royals, it is now a conservation effort. Every year a ceremony called Swan Upping takes place on the River Thames, the Queen’s Swan Marker counts every swan to ensure they are not declining in numbers.



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 transferred his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.
Other Number
2001.24 - The Gilbert Collection, Somerset House
Collection
Accession Number
LOAN:GILBERT.860-2008

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record createdJune 19, 2008
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