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Fig. 1 Pair of casters, maker’s mark of Paul Crespin (1694–1770) overstriking Abraham Buteaux (1698–1731), London, 1727–1728. Silver-gilt. H. 8 5/8 in. Part of the silver service issued by the Crown to the Earl of Chesterfield on his appointment as Ambassador to The Hague in 1727.
The Alan and Simone hartman collection, now installed at the museum of fine arts, boston, comprises 111 superb examples of London silver made between 1680 and 1760 (Fig. 1). The manner in which the Hartmans formed their collection reflects both their personal tastes and the wealth of knowledge Alan Hartman has acquired as a dealer in numerous fields. Yet the Hartmans followed none of the conventional routes in silver collecting: They had little interest in marks, did not set out to seek the “great names” of the silver-collecting world, and did not concentrate on any one form or style. Their attraction to silver is in its sculptural qualities as well as the aesthetics of its patina. With overriding criteria of quality and condition, the Hartmans set out to form a collection of the best pieces made during what was the greatest period of artistic and technological development in English silver. The result is a magnificent overview of silver as it was made and used during the period.

Fig. 2 Coffee pot, maker’s mark of Richard Bayley (w. 1706–1748), London, 1713–1714. Silver. H. 9 3/8 in.
Fig. 3 Coffee pot, maker’s mark of Simon Pantin (w. 1701–1728), London, 1715–1716. Silver. H. 97/8 in. These two pots illustrate the complexities of the silver industry in eighteenth-century London. One bears the mark of a Huguenot silversmith, the other a “native,” but both apparently make use of the same castings and mouldings, evidently supplied by a specialist workshop.
Over two-thirds of the pieces in the collection bear the marks of Huguenot silversmiths and their descendants, providing us with an opportunity to reassess the legacy of this influential group. The Huguenots were French Protestant workers forced to leave France as a result of Louis XIV’s persecutions at the end of the seventeenth century. Their exile created a tremendous diaspora of talent that spread throughout Northern Europe and as far afield as America. Their contribution to English silver has been recognized, if misunderstood, for some years. In 1930, when noted scholar Joan Evans wrote that “any history of the craft in England from 1680–1775 must concern itself chiefly with Huguenot smiths,” silver studies were still focused on the maker’s mark, and collectors and scholars devoted virtually all their attention to figures such as Paul de Lamerie, Paul Crespin, David Willaume, and Pierre Platel. More recent scholarship, however, has shown that the picture is much more complicated, and by concentrating on “names,” we ignore the complexities of the trade.

The breadth of the Hartman Collection provides, among other things, the opportunity to explore shop practices in the eighteenth-century silver industry as illustrated by two octagonal coffee pots (Figs. 2, 3). The first, from 1713–1714, is struck with the mark of Richard Bayley, a “native” silversmith, while the second, made two years later, bears the mark of a Huguenot silversmith, Simon Pantin. The reality is that neither Pantin nor Bayley made these pots entirely on his own, but in fact each one is a product of a series of techniques involving a number of specialized journeyman craftsmen.

Fig. 4 Tankard, maker’s mark W.I., London, 1686–1687. Silver. H. 8 in.
Patterns of design and influence are also illustrated through these two pots. That one pot bears the mark of a Huguenot and the other a native shows not only how widespread the plain geometric style was during this period, but also how mistaken we have been to think of this plain style as “Huguenot.” Past writers often suggested that the Huguenot’s low Protestantism fostered this plain, unadorned silver; similarly, nineteenth-century scholars dubbed the simple spoons with flat, plain handles popular during the first half of the seventeenth century “Puritan” spoons. In reality, religion had nothing to do with the fashion for plain silver, which was common across all of Europe, including Iberia. Moreover, geometric shapes such as the octagon had no precedent in French silver, and the fashion for geometric silver in London was actually due to Chinese ceramics, brought into England in increasing quantities from the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 onwards.

Fig. 5 Cream jug, attributed to Paul de Lamerie (1688–1751) or Nicholas Sprimont (1716–1771), circa 1735. Silver-gilt. H. 4 3/4 in. Perhaps no other piece shows so well the English rococo in silver, with its fusion of baroque and naturalistic forms.
The influence of other groups of foreign craftsmen, from Germany and elsewhere, for example, as well as Catholic workers from France who, unlike the Huguenots, were able to travel to and from their homeland and disseminate the latest French designs and technology, is long overdue for an assessment. The Hartman Collection addresses some of these influences by way of a tankard of 1686. Technically brilliant, the handle is identical to examples made in northern Germany, and is clearly the work of an immigrant craftsman (Fig. 4).

Perhaps most importantly, the Hartman Collection shows us that it was the patron, not the craftsman, who was the driving force in the adoption of new styles, which, during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, were almost unfailingly French. Alan and Simone Hartman’s interest in pursuing pieces whose original owners are known and, in some cases, details of the original commission recorded, helps elucidate this point and gives the collection an added dimension. These patrons, the well-traveled cultural elite, were exposed to innovation not only in style and design, but also in food and table displays. Changes in early eighteenth-century eating habits meant that silver assumed a new importance as table décor (Fig. 5).
Fig. 6 Pair of candelabra, maker’s mark of John Hugh le Sage (w. 1718–1747), London, 1744–1745. Silver. H. 16 3/4 in.
New dishes such as oille, a rich stew of game and poultry, as well as ragouts and soups, all introduced from France, required new vessels such as soup tureens and sauce boats, creating new demands on the makers and suppliers of silver. Sculptural creations like the ravishing candelabra of 1744–1745 from the workshop of John Hugh le Sage (Fig. 6), a second-generation Huguenot, could now delight the eye during a late evening meal, as the customary hour for dining continued to be pushed back until the fashionable were invariably dining after dark.

The Hartman Collection is perhaps the most comprehensive grouping of English silver to illustrate the development of styles, forms, and the complex nature of the silver industry in London. In addition, it highlights the patrons as much as the silversmiths themselves, giving human depth to these exquisite inanimate objects.

Christopher Hartop is author of the award-winning book The Huguenot Legacy: English Silver 1680–1760 from the Alan and Simone Hartman Collection, available from the MFA bookstore. His forthcoming book, Spanish Colonial Silver and Gold, will be published in 2002.

All photography by Barry Hyman and David Schlegel.

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