(click on photos to enlarge image)
THREE DECORATIVE SPOONS
It seems that the humble spoon has, like grander
plate, been accepted universally by silversmiths as the ideal
vehicle for artistic expression. Whereas, however, European
silversmiths were happy to produce decorative objects of spoon
form which were never intended to be used as such, English
silversmiths appeared intent on maintaining the utility purpose
of their products however heavily they decorated them.
The first illustration is of what is called a "berry spoon"
although there was probably no such spoon ever produced so that
the name is unlikely to be found in the pattern books of makers'
workshops. This type of spoon was adapted from some other spoon
and the type of decoration is almost exclusively confined to the
The spoon shown here was a Hanoverian table spoon of circa 1757
assayed in London but the marks are so rubbed that attribution
to its original maker is impossible and, of course, there is no
way of knowing who was responsible for its subsequent decoration.
This decoration includes the reshaping of the bowl to give it a
somewhat shell-like appearance. The stem is heavily decorated
with foliate engraving and this foliate concept has been carried
into the bowl. The main decorative feature within the bowl is a
group of three fruits which are embossed and then bright cut.
These fruits are the standard form of decoration for these
spoons consisting of a pineapple, a melon and a pear. The
overall effect is quite striking and is sufficiently attractive
that it does not much reduce the value of the piece as is the
case with later decoration on other forms of plate, such spoons
are usually sold to be used as "fruit spoons".
The next illustration is, I believe, of Dutch origin although
there is no original marking save for a small rectangular punch
on the reverse of the bowl within which is the figure 030 (possibly).
The front of the bowl is stamped with a London import mark
for1930 and shows that the piece is of sterling standard. It is
fairly certain that this 'spoon' was never intended to be used
and would be quite inconvenient as a spoon. The bowl is engraved
with motifs of musical inspiration with both instruments and
sheet music which, like the fruits in the first illustration,
have been raised by embossing. These motifs are displayed within
a foliate surround. The finial is formed as a cargo ship which,
notwithstanding that it appears to be carrying quite a large
sheet of canvas which is itself decorated with an engraving of a
stork or similar bird, is being loaded or victualled by a gang
of men obliged to scale the side of the vessel by means of a
ladder. The detail of the engraved work is quite exceptional and
is apparent on the reverse as well as the front of the vessel.
The stem of the spoon is definitely decorative rather than
utilitarian and it, together with the finial, was probably cast
and then soldered onto the bowl.
The last illustration is of a spoon the decorative purpose of
which can be in no doubt. The city arms forming the finial make
it clear that this spoon was made in Frankfurt and the back of
the bowl is stamped with the crown and crescent of the German
Federal Act of 1884 which took effect in 1888. The fineness mark
is 800 but there is no maker's mark. The whole is gilded.
The outstanding feature of this spoon is its bowl within which
is a miniature portrait of a gentleman in early 19th century
dress who may be Goethe in later life. This portrait is of a
very high quality indeed and there can be no doubt that the bowl
of this spoon was never intended for any form of dining room use.
- 2015 -
David McKinley devotes
much of his time to researching the history of
silversmithing in England with particular reference to
hallmarking at the London office. He writes for both The
Silver Spoon Club of Great Britain and The Silver
David McKinley is the author of the book THE FIRST
HUGUENOT SILVERSMITHS OF LONDON
Information about the content of this book and the
discounted price applied to members of ASCAS is
September 2011 Newsletter