Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Filigree Caddy Spoon Nᵒ.3**

A caddy spoon with filigree inset, Thomas Willmore,
Birmingham, 1804. Private collection.
Another Birmingham-made caddy spoon for today, this time by Thomas Willmore, a prominent maker of silver goods in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Find out more about Birmingham's filigree making here.
Hallmark on the spoon, above.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Filigree Thimble & Smelling Bottle Set**

Filigree thimble with smelling bottle insert, c. 1780-1800.
Private collection.

In 1779 Matthew Boulton's Soho sold a number of silver and gilt 'Filligree Thimble & Smelling Bottle' sets to Thomas and Theophilus Richards, who ran a fine toy-shop on High Street, sometimes called the 'Birmingham in Miniature'. Silver filigree was exempt from being marked, so it is hard to trace who manufactured it, but the object above is likely to be of Birmingham manufacture.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Filigree Caddy Spoon Nᵒ.2**


'Jockey cap' caddy spoon, made in filigree probably by
Samuel Pemberton, c. 1800. Assay Office
It is difficult to determine where eighteenth-century filigree was made, due to filigree being exempt from being hallmarked. This piece, though, is probably by Samuel Pemberton and is held in the collection at Birmingham's Assay Office, and is personalised with the initials 'JMWG'. Filigree was made in Birmingham from at least the 1740s.

Caddy spoons were used for serving loose tea leaves, and the Birmingham silversmiths made a variety of different kinds.

Find out more about Birmingham's filigree trade here.

Filigree Caddy Spoon Nᵒ.1**

Caddy spoon with filigree inset, Samuel Pemberton, 1802.
Held at Birmingham Assay Office.

Birmingham's filigree making has been little explored, though evidence reveals that the town made large quantities of filigree goods in the eighteenth-century.

Caddy spoons were used for serving tea, and the Birmingham silversmiths made a variety of different kinds. This example was made by Samuel Pemberton in 1802, and has a delicate pattern of engraving on the handle and around the spoon, with a filigree inset.

Find out more about Birmingham's filigree trade here.

Filigree: A Forgotten Birmingham Craft*

Filigree nutmeg grater, probably made by Samuel Pemberton
in Birmingham, c. 1790-1800. Held at the Assay Office.

Birmingham may have been the ‘city of a thousand trades’, but some of those trades are more well-known than others. One that is less recognised is that of filigree making, which involved using flattened wire soldered together to form decorative and delicate patterns, usually in the making of jewellery and small boxes. These small filigree items were popular in the eighteenth- and early nineteenth-centuries, and many examples survive; though because silver filigree was not required to be marked, their place of production is frequently guesswork. There is evidence though, that Birmingham was central in England’s filigree making during this period. The Encyclopaedia of Geography (1837), for example, highlights the main trades of the town as ‘pins, buttons, nails, paper trays, filigree, and toys’; the other trades are well researched, but information concerning the filigree trade remains elusive.

Matthew Boulton’s Soho produced a great deal of filigree goods. When, in 1774, Thomas Percival was researching how lead could poison those working with it, he visited the filigree workers at Soho (who used a lead-based solder), one of which had been making silver filigree for thirty-five years, so, since the 1740s at least. An inventory made at the Soho works in 1782 recorded a wide range of silver filigree, including smelling bottles, thimbles, handkerchief pins, purse runners, buckles, tea measures, toothpick cases and money boxes. Some of the merchants buying Soho’s filigree were Theophilus and Thomas Richards, who ran the fine toy-shop on High Street, which William Hutton called the ‘toyshop of Birmingham’. Thomas was a filigree worker, so the Richards’s probably bought from Soho to top-up their stock. Another local filigree worker was John Moody, who had run the Richards's toy-shop since the 1740s.

I will be added a selection of filigree articles over the next couple of week, to see what's been added, click here.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Charles Jones's Love Tokens**


The reverse side of the Love Tokens, with
the makers name, Charles Jones.

These ‘Love Tokens’ were made in Birmingham in bronze and gold gilt in the 1830s by Charles Jones of the Pantechnetheca (a grand toy-shop/repository); these are gold gilt examples of the whole set of six. Each token depicts two cupids rolling dice on the reverse [above], and a different scene (again, each with Cupid) on the obverse, as follows:

'AMOR FURIOSO', or, Furious Love

'AMOR VILE', or, Vile Love

'AMOR POETICO', or, Poetic Love

'AMOR NOBILE', or, Noble Love

'AMOR LENTO', or, Slow Love

'AMOR VOLUBILE', or, Changeable Love

These would have been made as collectable items, and Birmingham produced a vast range.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Georgian Menagerie: Enamel Boar**

Enamel wild boar, c. 1760-70.
Sold at Bonham's for £1.375 in 2011.

An enamel bonbonnière (sweet box) of a wild boar, complete with tusks and pink snout, and the lid is painted with a boar in a woodland scene.
Lid of the above box, 7.5 cm wide.

A detached lid [below] depicting a scene of a wild boar hunt is held at Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery, with two men and two dogs- the man on the horse blowing a horn. The shape of the lid is exact to the box above, so suggests, along with the imagery, that this was attached to a boar bonbonnière.

A lid (mounted for display), probably from a boar bonbonnière.
Held at Wolverhampton Museum, and dated at 1747-67.
EM78 Suggested to be painted in Birmingham. 6.7 cm wide. EM78

For comparison, below is another boar from a private collection, with detailed painting over the head. The lid depicts man on a horse spearing a boar which is much more crudely painted than the other lids, as well as differing from the intricate painting of the head.
Enamel wild boar, c. 1760-70. Private collection.
Bilston or Birmingham.

Lid of the box above.
H: 5cm. W: 7cm. D: 8cm.
An even cruder example is the boar below, which is probably a later example, made of a poorer quality for a wider market. The shape has also been simplified, fitting a circular lid. .
Enamel boar, c 1780, private collection.
Bilston or Birmingham.

Lid of the box above.

Interior of the box above.

NB: Boxes from private collections have been used for comparison only. 

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

A Bath Adonis


A Bath Adonis, c. 1775. From
the Lewis Walpole Archive at Yale,

And here is a very beautiful man, admiring his image in an ornate mirror at the Pump Room in Bath. He is decked in finery, with buttons on his coat and waistcoat, buckles, a dress sword, and a snuff-box ajar. He is just lovely (well, he thinks he is), and below the image is the inscription 'A Bath Adonis worshiping [sic] the Idol of his affections'.

Etched and engraved, possibly from The Matrimonial Magazine (18.3 10.3 cm).

Green Tea Caddy by Henry Clay

Japanned tea caddy, Henry Clay. Sold at Chrisite's.

A Birmingham made japanned tea caddy by Henry Clay, of about 1780, with (probably) Josiah Wedgwood cameos set into the sides (Clay definitely bought cameos from Wedgwood). The decoration on the borders is called palmette, the handle is silver and impressed with 'H C'. The caddy sold at Christie's for £3,125 in 2012.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Georgian Menagerie: Enamel Hawk/Falcon**

Enamel hawk of falcon bonbonnière, c. 1765. Sold at Bonham's.

A (probably) Bilston made bonbonnière in the shape of a bird of prey from about 1760-70, with intricately painted plumage, especially around the beak. The lid is painted with a mother-hen protecting her chicks from a falcon or hawk flying overhead [below]. The mount is of gilt metal.

Lid of above box.

Another box with redder and less detailed plumage depicts two birds of prey in an elegant garden on the lid [below]. The differences found in the style and quality of the painting may suggest that the copper bases were made in one workshop and then sold to others who would enamel and paint them.

Enamel hawk/falcon bonbonnière, c. 1780.
From the Antique Enamel Company.

(Both boxes are 6.1 cm long)

Monday, 21 November 2016

Georgian Menagerie: Enamel Owl (& Unfortunate Frog)**

A fine Birmingham or South Staffordshire enamel bonbonnière, circa 1760
Snuff-box or bonbonnière, c. 1760. Sold at Bonhams.

Yesterday I posted the enamel frog boxes, but today I'm afraid it's bad news for the unfortunate frog. He's owl supper!

Many of these small boxes shaped as animals were made between about 1760 and 1780, and depict all kinds of animals, both exotic, and more familiar ones like these. This one was produced either in Birmingham or Bilston using copper to form the box, which was then enamelled and mounted with a decorative rim. They were either used as snuff-boxes or bonbonnières (sweet boxes). The lid [below] contains an image of an owl being scolded by three birds.

The design on the lid has been transfer printed and over-painted, and other boxes [below] have a similar transfer printed design, which is sometimes called 'Mobbing Birds'.

Snuff-box from private collection, c. 1758-60.
Transfer printed in black, and probably Birmingham made.

The imagery is possibly taken from the Aesop's Fable The Owl and the Birds; a woodcut by Virgil Solis (1514-1562) based on the story is below:

Woodcut for The Owl and the Birds by Virgil Solis.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Georgian Menagerie: Enamel Frogs**

Enamel snuff-box or bonbonnière (sweet box), c. 1765-80.
Sold at Bonham's.
This little frog sold for £1,500 at Bonham's in 2011, and had originally been part of a large collection amassed by Mort and Moira Lesser [see their collection here]. He is made from enamel on copper and was made in Birmingham or Bilston (probably the latter) in the 1760s or 1770s, as were lots of other little 'critters' just like him. There is another frog in the collection at Wolverhampton Museum and Art Gallery; he is painted with a different pattern but it looks like the two frogs were stamped from a similar mould, and both are 4.8 to 5 cm high.

Frog held at Wolverhampton Museum.

Wolverhampton Museum date their box at 1775-1780.

More detail has been added to the mound that the frog is sitting on in the Wolverhampton example, with the frog's 'fingers' intertwined in the grass. The base of the latter box has a spray of flowers.

Although not pictured on the Bonham's site, the lid of their frog [top image] was painted 'with lovers seated in a rural landscape'. Another box, from a private collection [below], gives an impression of that scene.

Another frog (and its lid) from a private collection, c. 1780.
Showing the curvature of the base, as these were objects for the pocket.

More Frog Boxes
Enamel frog box (5 cm), c. 1780. Christie's.

Although more crudely painted than the others, this little box [above] sold for £2,750 at Christie's in 2013. The base (not pictured) shows 'an amorous scene of a couple being shot by Cupid's arrow'.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

John Wilkes's Detector Lock**


Birmingham made 'detector' lock from c. 1680. V&A.

This brass lock was made in Birmingham in about 1680 by John Wilkes, so a little before the prime of the town’s toymaking trade, but it is still a fascinating object. The lock is able to record how may times it has been opened through the turning of the numbered dial. It would therefore ward off any potential thieves, and on the front are written the lines:

If I had ye gift of tongue 
I would declare and do no wrong 
Who ye are ye come by stealth 
To impare my Master's wealth.

The man’s leg moves forwards and backwards to reveal and conceal the keyhole when a button is pressed, and his hat is tilted to release the bolt. It is an ingenious piece of craftsmanship, and not the only surviving John Wilkes lock, so more will be revealed soon. See them here.

The Pantechnetheca: Repository for the Arts

Trade card for the Pantechnetheca, 1824. BA.

The Pantechnetheca was Birmingham's last grand toy-shop, the only one to be custom built, and it was built in an extravagant fashion - the idea was for it to display all of Birmingham's manufactures.* Construction began in 1823 under the direction of the silversmith, Charles Jones, utilising the skills of architect Thomas Stedman Whitwell. It was open a year later selling 'Jewellery, Papier Mache, Cut Glass, Sheffield Plate, Lustres, Or Moulu, Cups, Cutlery, [...] Swords and Buttons' and much more. These articles were displayed in three grand showrooms, each specialising in different products, and you would approach the upstairs showrooms via 'a spacious and gracefully-turned staircase', which was fitted 'in a style of classical elegance, richness of decoration and tasteful attention to commodiousness'.* The interiors may have been designed by Richard Hicks Bridgens, who produced ornate candelabra which stood outside, but was also known for his interior design.

Inside the Pantechnetheca, New Street. BA.

The name 'Pantechnetheca' (which was written across the front of the shop in Greek letters) seems to have been invented to inspire a sense of classical taste. The exterior was classically inspired and part of the Greek Revival in architecture. The ground floor was decorated with a 'Grecian Doric colonnade, supporting [another] of the Ionic order', all this was 'surmounted by a handsome balustrade with projecting pedestals' and sitting on these were sculpted figures and urns.* The sculptures were of four muses used to illustrate the fine arts, and Jones called his emporium the 'Repository for the Arts', reflecting how he wanted local manufactures to be seen. Later, he also opened a gallery and sold 'a succession of paintings by the most able ancient and modern masters'.

New Street, Birmingham, c.1825, drawn by Henry Harris on stone
and printed by C. Hullmandel. BA.
Showing Charles Jones's Pantechnetheca in the middle of the row of
buildings on the right. The closer building with the large Corinthian
columns was Sarah Bedford's glass maunufactory.

It was an opulent project, perhaps too opulent, as by 1836 Jones was selling off all the fittings and fixtures and in early 1837 he was bankrupt; the building was sold off by auction in 1839 and bought by Samuel Hyam (a tailor) [see below].

Sale of the Pantechnetheca, from The London Gazette.
Jones's bankruptcy appeared in February 1837.

Friday, 18 November 2016

The 'Birmingham in Miniature'

Top of the advert for 'Birmingham in Miniature', 1808, Bisset's Directory.

The ‘Birmingham in Miniature’* was one of the most prominent shops in Birmingham in the eighteenth century. It was opened probably in the 1740s by John Moody, and was taken over by the Richards’s family in the late 1770s. It sold (as the advert above states), a vast variety of ‘the manufactures of Birmingham and its vicinity’. These manufactures were 'toys', but, the word toy doesn’t have the same meaning today as it did three hundred years ago. These were not children’s toys, but small articles of adornment and intricate metal ware, and were part of a language of personal display. Unlike jewellery, which was purely for adornment, toys usually had some use, and included items such as buttons, buckles, watch chains, snuff-boxes and perfume bottles.

Full advert, as above.

Only a little can be discovered about what the 'Birmingham in Miniature' or Richards's Toy-Shop sold, as a only few bills and letters can be found. What is known is that it was visited by the elite when touring the town, including Admiral Nelson, HRH Prince William of Gloucester, and the famous collector, William Hamilton. It probably stocked the best variety of Birmingham manufactures. It was not the only toy-shop in Birmingham, the earliest recorded shop can be dated back to 1725, and the most recent (and grandest) was built in 1825. Birmingham toys were also sold in fashionable toy-shops in London, Bath and other English towns, as well as all over Europe. The variety of Birmingham manufactures as would have been sold in the 'Birmingham in Miniature' will be displayed for your perusal on this blog, so I invite you to step inside an eighteenth-century toy-shop. 

Trade card for the same toy-shop in about the 1820s.

* Richards's toy-shop was called 'Birmingham in Miniature' in the advert (above), but was usually just called Richards's toy-shop, or when it was run by John Moody, 'Moody's toy-shop'. 

The First Known Transfer Print*


Success to the British Fisheries, 1750-51, probably Birmingham. V&A.

Plaque (1750 or 1751) made from white enamel (with a red transfer-print) on copper and framed in gilt metal.

This is the earliest example of transfer printing, a process probably developed in Birmingham and first used on enamel. As an early example, the process hasn’t been mastered yet, and the lines are a little powdery and have been over painted here and there. The plaque is held by the V&A, who state that it “commemorates the foundation by Royal Charter of the 'Free British Fishery Society' or British Herring Fishery Company, on 25 October 1750”. The design is similar to other Birmingham enamels of this period, including the picturing of swans, which was a dominant motif in Birmingham enamels.

The design is thought to be by the engraver Louis-Philippe Boitard (active 1733-1763), whose imagery was used in other Birmingham enamels, as well as Midland potteries. (W: 12.4. H: 9.8)