Paul Storr - The Last of the Goldsmiths?

Paul Storr - The Last of the Goldsmiths?

It is an odd coincidence that the two most celebrated English silversmiths were both Christened Paul: Paul de Lamerie (9 April 1688 – 1 August 1751) and Paul Storr (1 October 1770 – 18 March 1844). On the evidence of the gold and silver struck with their various marks, they were also the most prolific, a fact which probably accounts for their being the subjects of the first two biographies about leading members of the London manufacturing goldsmiths' trade.

The first was Paul de Lamerie, Citizen and Goldsmith of London, a Study of His Life and Work, A.D. 1688-1751 by Philip Alexander Solomon Phillips (12 November 1867 – 28 January 1934); the second, entitled Paul Storr : The Last of the Goldsmiths, was written by Norman Mosley Penzer (30 September 1892 – 27 November 1960). Both were published with copious illustrations by B.T. Batsford Ltd., respectively in 1935 and 1954.

Although the fruits of Phillips and Penzer's research is impressive, which has been added to over the years by other writers, we still know next to nothing about either de Lamerie or Storr's day to day activities or the plans of their factories. It is beyond doubt, however, that both men must have been remarkable in their fields; their early skills at the at the bench, one presumably as a plate-worker, the other probably as a chaser, cannot alone have prepared them for lives as businessmen with the qualities necessary for leadership.

In her review of Penzer's monograph in The Art Bulletin (March 1955, pp. 68-70), Kathryn C. Buhler of the Department of the Decorative Arts of Europe and America, Boston Museum of Arts, found the author's subtitle – The Last of the Goldsmiths - 'a definite stumbling block.' She went on to explain, that, 'Had Storr worked entirely independently throughout his career, or been the designer of all the work he was to produce, the title might seem more acceptable.' Rather, Storr's genius was to superintend the workmanship of his silversmiths and chasers and to meld their talents with those of artists, designers, modellers, engravers and gilders employed by him and his partners.

The most productive years of Storr's working life were between 1807 and February 1819 when he headed Paul Storr & Co., the silver factory in Dean Street, Soho of the royal goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. Besides Storr himself, the chief partners in this concern were Philip Rundell, John Bridge and Edmund Waller Rundell. With all the silver and gold made there during this period struck with Storr's 'maker's mark,' it is hardly surprising that Storr himself has become such an icon among early 19th century silversmiths. The scale of Storr & Co.'s operations was prodigious, at one period producing 10,000 oz. (311 kg.) of finished plate every month. This is roughly the equivalent of 42 large trays, 245 teapots or 500 dinner plates.

Probably the most enthusiastic collector of silver and silver-gilt bearing Paul Storr's mark was Morrie Moss and his wife, Lillian of Memphis, Tennessee who in the 1950s and '60s amassed more than 1,000 pieces. In his article, 'Storr produced quality, quantity' (Tucson Daily Citizen, Tucson, Arizona, Friday, 6 October 1971, p. 31), a survey of the Moss Collection, William Pahlmann, Fellow of the American Institute of Interior Designers, wrote, 'Along with the appreciating of beauty and quality and the investment value of such collection, the collector's urge led the Mosses into many new avenues of interest. Many of the pieces in the Moss collection were commissioned for the English nobility, and the Mosses are now in the process of having the engraved [coats of] arms of the entire collection identified. This has led them to a study of hallmarks and heraldry.'

As collectors of antique silver, Mr. and Mrs. Moss were far from the first to recognize the quality of 'Paul Storr silver' and its significance to 'the English nobility.' In 1843 Rundell's and its celebrated shop on Ludgate Hill was closed. Within 50 years their name had been all but forgotten as dealers in old silver became increasingly captivated by the relatively new study of marks on silver, specifically the so-called 'maker's mark.' So it was that in the 27 April 1889 edition of Berrow's Worcester Journal it was reported that the Rev. Sir Emilius Laurie (formerly a famous cricketer) had been presented with 'a large old silver tray by Paul Storr, silversmith to George III., the weight of which was 237 ½ oz.'

Perhaps Dr. Penzer may be forgiven his extravagant, not to say misleading description of Storr as 'The Last of the Goldsmiths'; he may have been inspired to research his life after reading Frank Davis's article, '''The Last of the Silversmiths'' : Paul Storr,' which was published on the 18 April 1931 in The Illustrated London News (p. 658). Davis, a well-known writer on antiques, justified the phrase by suggesting that it 'defines well enough the position of Paul Storr as the last survivor of the eighteenth-century tradition, before the whole world temporarily lost the trick of clean rhythmic design and flocked to admire the monstrosities of the Great Exhibition of 1851.' This remark, very much in tune with the prevailing attitude in the 1930s to late Georgian and Victorian silver, ignored the fact that some of those 'monstrosities' of 1851 were actually manufactured by Storr's successors, Hunt & Roskell, using patterns, models and dies made under Storr's management at his new factory in Harrison Street, established in 1819 after severing his connection with Rundell, Bridge & Rundell.

Mr. Davis stated that the Storr/Hunt & Roskell 'factory at Harrison Street, near King's Cross, is still in active operation, and I believe that some of Storr's original dies have escaped destruction. . . . As far as I can discover,' he concluded, 'no one has ever published any account of him, and, if this should catch the eye of a collector who has access to any contemporary record, I should be greatly obliged if he would let me know.' The challenge was accepted, 23 years later resulting in Penzer's Paul Storr : The Last of the Goldsmiths.


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