Sharp-eyed Freeman’s followers may notice that our fall sales feature a new name for our furniture and decorative arts department. Formerly called “English & Continental,” we are now known as British & European. This is not merely an issue of style, but of substance. Fine works of furniture and decorative arts from Scotland and Ireland play an important part in Freeman’s sales, and in the upcoming sale of Silver, Objets de Vertu & Russian Works of Art, we have a wonderful selection of Scottish and Irish silver on offer which are distinctly different from their English cousins.
The Antiques Trade Gazette recently (Issue 2257 | 10 September 2016) noted that Scottish and Irish silver have uniquely important qualities that separate them from their English counterparts. London Silver Vaults dealer William Crofton noted “When there is distance between the silversmith and the design source, the silver assumes a different personality,” and the article goes on to note the extraordinary popularity of the markets for Irish and Scottish silver in the UK and abroad, thanks to their idiosyncratic vernacular style. Freeman’s is pleased to offer a very fine selection of Irish silver in this sale.
A lovely example of Scottish silver is lot 12, an early Victorian silver ewer by William Cunningham II of Edinburgh, 1838-1839. Visually, this ewer clings to earlier Georgian models for inspiration, but the oak-leaf garland incised work begins to point to the more lavish decoration we see coming in the Victorian era.
Another vibrant example of fine Irish silver is a gutsy and energetically cast five-piece tea service by James Fray of Dublin 1825-1826. This robust group is a marvelous example of the distinctly Irish interpretation of Regency taste.
A much later piece is a magnificent Edward VII silver tray by Gibson & Co. of Dublin, 1908-1909. This massive piece has a pierced and cast gallery and energetically engraved ground which use magnificent Celtic strapwork decoration—a beautiful example of a uniquely Irish form of decoration, popular just as Ireland began its move towards independence.