Lot 28
  • 28

A George II silver soup tureen and cover, John Edwards, London, 1737

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • silver
  • 41.5cm., 16 ¼ in. over handles
oval, on four cast shell and scroll supports, the body applied on either side with a rococo cartouche each engraved at a later date with a coat-of-arms between festoons of marine debris including oyster shells, crab claws, mussels, seaweeds, coral, with dolphin and bulrush handles, the detachable cover similarly decorated in relief below an applied crab finial, the small cartouches on either side engraved with a contemporary crest


Lieut. Col. Matthew Gunning (1781-1860);

Norman C. Hurst Esq., Christie’s London, 26 March 1969, lot 92;

The Property of a Gentleman, Christie’s London, 31 March 1976, lot 159;

Private Collection.


Arthur G. Grimwade, London Goldsmiths 1697-1837: Their Marks and Lives, London, 1976, p. 501 and No. 2617;

Christopher Hartop, The Huguenot Legacy, English Silver 1680-1760 from the Alan and Simon Hartman Collection, London, 1996, pp. 120-125;

Arthur Grimwade, Rococo Silver 1727-1765, London, 1974, pp. 42-43.

Catalogue Note

The arms are those of Gunning with Gunning quartering Shiercliffe in pretence for Lieut. Col. Matthew Gunning of Woolley and Charlcombe, Somerset. He, who was born in 1781, was married on 13 October 1819 at St. George’s, Hanover Square, to his first cousin, Elizabeth (1767-1849) of Swainswick, near Bath, Somerset, only daughter of Thomas Gunning (1736?-1784) and his wife Mary (1742?-1779), daughter of John Shiercliffe, both of Sheffield, Yorkshire. Col. Gunning served with distinction in Egypt under Lord Abercrombie and was with the 69th Regiment at the capture of the Island of Java in August 1811, being first to enter the fort. He died at his house in Gloucester Place, Marylebone, on 16 April 1860.

For a goldsmith whose work 'at best reaches remarkable quality of execution as in… the outstanding tureen with dolphin handles and crab finial of 1737,’1 surprising little is known about John Edwards. He appears however to have been associated with a group of important goldsmiths whose premises near the Bank of England, centred round St. Swithin’s Lane and the compact parish of St. Mary Woolnorth.  He was apprenticed to Thomas Prichard,2 and possibly afterwards also to John Bache. The latter who became Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths’ Company in 1726, was Edwards’s sponsor for his Freedom of the Grocer’s Company, which gave him the right to work in the City of London.  Bache’s business partner and fellow apprentice had been William Denny who was a subordinate goldsmith to the king in 1701-1702.3 These subordinates were suppliers to the Principal Goldsmith, normally a banker, who headed the office of state which dealt with the silver, gold and jewellery requirements of the monarch.4

Edwards entered his first mark in 1723 but is simultaneously recorded as subordinate Goldsmith to the King. His youth for such an appointment seems less surprising when it appears that social connections over experience were probably the determining factor.  William Denny, partner and fellow apprentice with Edwards’s sponsor, John Bache, had premises, at the sign of the Golden Ball, St. Swithin’s Lane in the parish of St. Mary Woolnorth, the same premises used at a later time by Edwards himself.  John Ruslen was another goldsmith in St Swithin’s Lane, at the Golden Cup in 1697. A goldsmith/banker, also Prime Warden of the Goldsmith’s Company is Ruslen who was responsible for the earliest recorded English silver Hanukah lamp (see lot 4 in this sale).

Ruslen together with Thomas Folkingham witnessed the Freedom in 1707 of Thomas Farren,5  another subordinate goldsmith to the King.  Farren, who had been apprenticed to the previously mentioned Thomas Denny, also had premises in St. Swithin’s Lane, next to those of Edwards.6 Moreover, similarities can be found in the silver objects sponsored by Farren and by Edwards.7

Another of John Bache’s apprentices (1693), the goldsmith Thomas Folkingham, was at the Golden Ball, St. Swithin’s Lane until moving in 1723.  A notice following his death in 1729 records that two days before ‘died Mr Falkenham  a very noted Goldsmith said to have left  upwards of 30,000£. . .’ ‘It is fairly clear that in Folkingham,’ wrote Arthur Grimwade ‘we have a banker goldsmith of considerable status.’8
It is not known if Edwards was an actual working goldsmith. The `maker’s mark’ (now officially known as a sponsor’s mark) does not explain what Edwards’s role in the manufacturing process was, except to denote his responsibility for the fineness of the metal; as an entrepreneur he would have insisted on controlling the quality of workmanship.  A mark for John Edwards was registered at Goldsmiths’ Hall on 1 November 1753.9 This must have been that of the son, as the father died in October: `Yesterday morning died Mr. Edwards, an eminent Silversmith in Swithin’s-lane, Lombard-Street.’10 Even though John Edwards jun. had registered a silver mark, he used the premises to sell oysters, as evidenced by an advertisement which appeared at regular intervals from 1752 until 1758. `Colchester Oysters sold as usual by John Edwards in Swithins-Lane, the corner of Bearbinder lane near the Mansion House.’ 
Oysters from Colchester were considered the finest. They were dredged from the sea bed and put into tidal pits for fattening up where they gorged on a species of harmless algae which turned them a highly prized green colour. Silver dishes in the form of scallop shells made by goldsmiths of Edwards’s calibre such as Paul de lamerie and Paul Crespin, may have been used by the very wealthy to eat oysters. Oysters baked in natural scallop shells, was a recipe of the time and `Scollops for Oysters’ is a phrase encountered in 18th century silver inventory lists.11 August 5, the feast of St James, who is associated with the scallop shell, was the first day of the oyster season.
 It appears that in this small area of the City of London, the younger Edwards was not the only purveyor of Colchester oysters. James Peto, known as Oystericus, was in business in the street next to St Swithin’s lane, ‘at his Original Warehouse, at the Post-Boy, Sherborne-Lane, opposite the Back-Gate of the General Post-Office’  from the 1740s until his death in 1795.12

Christopher Hartop, who calls the crab tureen, `The most extravagant tureen from [Edwards’s] workshop’,  suggests that work bearing John Edwards’s mark is ‘unusually large scale and often features large cast marine ornament.’ 13 He cites a pair of silver soup tureens and covers with lobster finials, London, 1740/41, bearing the royal arms and the arms of Simon, 2nd Viscount Harcourt, that were part of the official plate taken by Harcourt as ambassador to Paris in 1768.  The goldsmith Edwards was also responsible for Harcourt’s dinner plates and serving dishes, hallmarked for 1735, and these appear styled on French models.14 Harcourt went to France during his grand tour and is well known, certainly later in his career, but before he was ambassador to have ordered a considerable amount of silver from France.  The Harcourt tureens from  Edwards have lobsters on the cover, which were influenced by a marine composition of Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier  from Livre de Légumes, engraved by Gabriel Huquier and published in Paris in 1734.   Prints of around the same date, also engraved by Gabriel Huquier after Jacques de la Joue from Second Livres de cartouches are closely related to the cartouches on the crab tureen in this sale. This latter source of French design provided inspiration for another item of early English rococo silver, the Bristol ewer and basin, George Wickes, 1735. Probably because rococo silver was so new in England at that time, the recipient Thomas Scrope called them `The most curious Bason and Ewer that ever was seen’. 15


1 Grimwade, London Goldsmiths, 1697-1837, p. 501.
2 Ibid, p. 633; will signed 11 December 1714, proved 17 February 1726 (National Archives, PROB 11/614).
3 Grimwade, op. cit., pp. 427, 428, 490 and 501.
4 Clayton, The Collector’s Dictionary of the Gold and Silver of Great Britain and North America, London, 1971, pp. 222 and 224.
5 Freedom of the City Admission Papers, London Metropolitan Archives, ELJL/238/69
6 London Land Tax Records, Walbrook Ward, St. Mary Woolchurch Precinct, 1727, p. 7, where Farren’s name is spelt ‘Farrin’.
7 Compare the present soup tureen and the pair of Edwards soup tureens, London, 1740, illustrated in Hartop, The Huguenot Legacy, English Silver 1680-1760  from the Alan and Simon Hartman Collection, London, 1996, p. 120, pl. 121 with Farrern’s wine cistern and wine fountain, London, 1728 at Burghley House, and a pair of double-lipped sauceboats, London, 1732, advertised in The Connoisseur, London, 1953.
8 Grimwade, op. cit., p. 511. At the time very roughly the annual wage of a skilled worker, such as a plumber or carpenter was £50. (British History Chronologically Arranged, London, 1839, p. 458).
9 Grimwade, op. cit., p. 501
10 The Public Advertiser, London, Wednesday, 10 October 1753, p. 1c. He was buried at St. Mary Woolnoth on 14 October 1753.
11 Sotheby's London, 11 November 1995, lot 117.
12 James Peto of Shalford, Essex, oyster dealer, his will was signed on 2 June 1795 and proved, with a codicil, on 29 October that year (National Archives, PROB 11/1266).
13 The Huguenot Legacy, op. cit., pp. 120-125.
14 Sotheby's London, The Harcourt Collection, 10 June 1993.
15 Barr, "The Bristol ewer and basin", in Art at Auction, The year at Sotheby’s 1982-83, pp. 284-289.