Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge, London, 1922, Miniatures and Silver from Wroxton Abbey, Banbury, forming part of the North Heirlooms and sold by direction of the family, lot 175. `A very fine George II Soup Tureen and Cover…, London, 1735, maker George Weekes’ [sic]; with liner, London 1827, 184oz 8dwt;
Sotheby & Co., Fine Old English Silver, ..and the Property of the Right Hon. Lord North (Sold by Direction of the Public Trustee), 8 May 1940, lot 167 `A Fine Early George II Soup Tureen and Cover.., by George Weekes’ [sic]; with liner 1827, 184oz. 3dwt.;
S.J. Phillips Ltd, London 1980;
`Property of a New York Private Collection’, Sotheby's, New York, 12 October 1990, lot 313. (base engraved No 2, cover No 1);
Garrards, London, circa 1990 (base engraved No 2, cover No 1);
Sotheby's, London, 18 December 2007, lot 193. (base engraved No 2, cover No 1)
When they were made each tureen weighed the same amount of 157oz. 3dwt., recorded by the inventory of 1736 and the engraving on each base.
The coats of arms are those of North for Francis North, 3rd Baron Guildford, (1704-1790). He became Baron North in 1734 and was subsequently known as Lord North until his elevation in 1752 to the Earldom of Guildford. He came from a family of senior State servants. His grandfather was Lord Chancellor under Charles II; His father was First Lord of Trade under Queen Anne and his son Frederick (1732-1792), godson of the Prince of Wales, was Prime Minister under George III from 1770-1782.
Francis North himself was a Lord of the Bedchamber (1730-1751), to Frederick Prince of Wales. He was Governor to Frederick’s son, Prince George of Wales in 1751, later George III and Treasurer to the Queen Consort, Queen Charlotte from 1773 until his death in 1790. He had been a client of George Wickes at least by 1731, as a pair of candlesticks of that date were sold at Sotheby's by the Trustees of Lord North to the dealer Thomas Lumley, 8 May 1940, lot 168. They are engraved with the feathers and motto of the Prince of Wales and would have been made in conjunction with Lord North’s appointment to the Royal Household in 1730. In an extraordinary coincidence their original branches were subsequently found by Lumley in America, see: Elaine Barr, 1980, footnote 2, p. 157.
In 1735 Wickes was granted the desirable Royal warrant as official goldsmith to Frederick (Fig. 1), a prince ‘blessed with unusual artistic and intellectual attributes’.2 There was stiff competition at the time, such important goldsmiths as Paul de Lamerie, David Willaume II, Paul Crespin and Frederick Kandler were all available, but Wickes was chosen, undoubtedly helped by North who already knew the goldsmith and had access to the Prince.
Wickes charged Lord North the sum of 10 shillings an ounce for the workmanship of the tureens. This was an unusually high amount compared with other commissions. For example, Lord Mountford was invoiced 7 shillings 6 pence an ounce for a pair of tureens in 1744, which included the cost of the design by William Kent (Barr, p. 97); and the Prince himself paid 8 shillings an ounce in 1737, for a centrepiece sent to Cliveden, which he leased at the time (Barr, p. 141). This high cost must reflect the applied cast work of the coats of arms, normally engraved and charged separately, and the rococo ornaments which in 1736 were remarkably early English examples of the style. The same Ornament of Roman emperor profiles in rococo cartouches, perhaps a nod to North family virtues, was used on Wickes’s most famous work in the rococo style, the Bristol ewer and basin (Fig. 2), also invoiced 1735/36 and similarly described as fine, for which the making charge was 10 shillings and 10 pence an ounce. This was sold in 2012 for £1.9 million. It was described as exemplifying `the exploration of style in a unique way’ whose `aesthetic significance lay in this hybrid design: Regence decorum meets rococo playfulness’ (Reviewing committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, Case 6, 2012-2013, Expert’s submission para. 3).
One tureen only was included in the sale of the North Heirlooms in 1922 and one was included in 1940, their weights varying slightly between these two catalogues. However, due to the lack of identifying numbers, it is impossible to completely distinguish between the two or their subsequent provenance, except that body numbered 2 and cover numbered 1 were offered at auction in 1990, again in 2007 and passed through the books of the royal goldsmith Garrard's & Co. Ltd, in 1990.
The tureens were not intended to hold liners. None were supplied in 1736, nor were any recorded in Lord North’s account at Wickes’s up till 1740/41; in addition, the interiors are smoothly finished. They were however supplied with oval dishes as stands, one of which conforming in weight and shape appears to have been included in the 1922 sale (lot 167) but already separated from the tureen as a non-associated lot and described as a meat dish with shell and gadroon border.
1. George Wickes' Gentleman's Ledger, 27 April 1736, Fol. 32, Archive of Art & Design, Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
2. John Harris. ‘George III’s parents: Frederick and Augusta’ in The Wisdom of George III, papers from a symposium at the queen’s gallery Buckingham Palace, ed. Jonathan Marsden, June 2004, p. 17
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