Salt Cellar thumbnail 1
Salt Cellar thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 53a

Salt Cellar

1752-1756 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This piece is for serving powdered salt at a grand dinner. From the medieval period until the 17th century, containers for serving salt at table were often highly decorative. They were placed in front of the master of the house and symbolised his status. By the 18th century, salts had lost this symbolic role: they were usually small and plain, and were evenly distributed around the table, usually one to two diners. (Pepper was served from casters, as was sugar and dry mustard.) This salt is an unusually decorative one for its date. Crayfish salts were sold in pairs. The collector Horace Walpole owned a plain white pair.

Design & Designing
Nicholas Sprimont (1716-1771) made crayfish salts in silver before he founded the Chelsea porcelain factory. He made some in 1742-1743 for a marine-themed table setting commissioned by Frederick, Prince of Wales. Sprimont repeated the design at the Chelsea factory around 1745 and continued to make them in the 1750s: he included six pairs in a London auction of Chelsea porcelain held in 1756. He probably took the motif of a crayfish mounting a shell from a print by the great French Rococo silversmith and designer Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier (see museum no. 29564:121). The crayfish was cast from a real crustacean.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels
Brief Description
Salt cellar, in the form of a crayfish, soft-paste porcelain, painted in enamels; probably modelled by Nicholas Sprimont, made at Chelsea Porcelain factory, London, 1752-1756
Physical Description
Salt cellar, in the form of a crayfish, rocks and shells, soft-paste porcelain. The crayfish is modelled and coloured grey-brown after nature, the largest shell left white. On the rocks are smaller shells and coloured mauve and red, green seaweed and coral.
Dimensions
  • Approx. height: 5cm
  • Width: 12.1cm
Dimensions checked: Registered Description; 01/01/1998 by KN
Gallery Label
British Galleries: Nicholas Sprimont first made this design in silver in 1742-1743, and then repeated it at his Chelsea porcelain factory after 1745. It was probably based on the print after the French goldsmith Meissonnier, exhibited above.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Bequeathed by Mr Wallace Elliot
Object history
London, Hyam, 1926.



Possibly modelled by Nicholas Sprimont (baptised in Liège, Belgium, 1716, died in London, 1771); made at the Chelsea porcelain factory, London
Subjects depicted
Summary
Object Type
This piece is for serving powdered salt at a grand dinner. From the medieval period until the 17th century, containers for serving salt at table were often highly decorative. They were placed in front of the master of the house and symbolised his status. By the 18th century, salts had lost this symbolic role: they were usually small and plain, and were evenly distributed around the table, usually one to two diners. (Pepper was served from casters, as was sugar and dry mustard.) This salt is an unusually decorative one for its date. Crayfish salts were sold in pairs. The collector Horace Walpole owned a plain white pair.

Design & Designing
Nicholas Sprimont (1716-1771) made crayfish salts in silver before he founded the Chelsea porcelain factory. He made some in 1742-1743 for a marine-themed table setting commissioned by Frederick, Prince of Wales. Sprimont repeated the design at the Chelsea factory around 1745 and continued to make them in the 1750s: he included six pairs in a London auction of Chelsea porcelain held in 1756. He probably took the motif of a crayfish mounting a shell from a print by the great French Rococo silversmith and designer Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier (see museum no. 29564:121). The crayfish was cast from a real crustacean.
Collection
Accession Number
C.73-1938

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record createdMarch 27, 2003
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