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Details & Cataloguing

Important Silver, Gold Boxes & Objects of Vertu

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A George III silver epergne, William Pitts, London, 1789
on four fluted supports terminating in lion's paw feet and headed by caryatids, openwork vitruvian scroll strechers surrounding a central boat-shaped urn, oval gallery chased with scrolling flowers and foliage and draped with leaf and berry swags and bows, four leaf-capped scroll branches supporting pierced circular baskets and four larger scroll branches incorporating flowers and supporting pierced oval baskets, central two-handled boat-shaped pierced basket supported by four leaf-capped branches draped with leaf and berry swags, the central basket engraved with the arms of Maitland with another in pretence, the smaller baskets with the Maitland crest  
55.5cm 21 7/8 in high, 77cm, 30 3/8 in wide
6578gr, 211oz 5dwt
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Catalogue Note

This epergne is among the largest and most impressive of neo-classical examples made towards the end of the eighteenth century; its scale is second only to the example made in 1780 by James Young in the Palace of Queluz in Portugal. The chasing and engraving around the pierced decoration on the present example is exceptional in the quality of its execution. 

The epergne, or surtout de table, was introduced from France at the beginning of the eighteenth century. As early as the 1720s one appears in a royal inventory described as an 'Aparn' evidently a misunderstanding of the French word épargner (to save), meaning to save space on the table.

William Pitts I, free in 1784, was the son of Thomas, not only a specialist epergne maker but supplier of top quality goods for other goldsmiths such as Parker & Wakelin to retail; see, for example, the Harcourt wine coolers, Sothebys, London, 20 November 2003, lot 197. William Pitts's workshop from 1786 was at 26 Litchfield Street, St Anne’s, Soho. Epergnes form the bulk of his surviving work from before 1800, but later in his career he also made large-scale cast candelabra.

The Maitland arms are presumably for a member of the family of the Earls of Lauderdale.

Important Silver, Gold Boxes & Objects of Vertu

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London