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Paul Storr (1771 - Tooting 1844) The Portsmouth Candelabrum Centrepiece

LONDON, 1817

Height: 21½ in. (54.6 cm.)
Weight: 447 oz. (13,911 gr.)

Silversmith Biography

Son of Thomas Storr of Westminster, first silver-chaser later innkeeper, born 1771. Apprenticed c'1785. Before his first partnership with William Frisbee in 1792 he worked at Church Street, Soho, which was the address of Andrew Fogelberg, This is also the address at which Storr's first separate mark is also entered. First mark entered as plateworker, in partnership with William Frisbee, 2 May 1792. Address: 5 Cock Lane, Snow Hill. Second mark alone, 12 January 1793. Address: 30 Church Street, Soho. Third mark, 27 April 1793. Fourth 8 August 1794. Moved to 20 Air Street, 8 October 1796, (where Thomas Pitts had worked till 1793). Fifth mark, 29 November 1799. Sixth, 21 August 1807. Address 53 Dean Street, Soho. Seventh, 10 February 1808. Ninth, 21 October 1813. Tenth, 12 September 1817. Moved to Harrison Street, Gray's Inn Road, 4 March 1819, after severing his connection with Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. Eleventh mark, 2 September 1883. Address: 17 Harrison Street. Twelfth and last mark, 2 September 1833. Heal records him in partnership with Frisbee and alone at Cock Lane in 1792, and at the other addresses and dates above, except Harrison Street. Storr married in 1801, Elizabeth Susanna Beyer of the Saxon family of piano and organ builders of Compton Street, by whom he had ten children. He retired in 1838, to live in Hill House in Tooting. He died 18 March 1844 and is buried in Tooting Churchyard. His will, proved 3 April 1844, shows an estate of £3000. A memorial to him in Otely Church, Suffolk was put up by his son Francis the then incumbent of the parish. For full details of Storr's relationship with Rundell, Bridge and Rundell please see N.M. Penzer, 1954 or Royal Goldsmiths, The Art of Rundell and Bridge, 2005. Storr's reputation rests on his mastery of the grandoise neo-Classical style developed in the Regency period. His early pieces up to about 1800 show restrained taste, although by 1797 he had produced the remarkable gold font for the Duke of Portland. Here, however the modelling of the classical figures must presumably have been the work of a professional sculptor, as yet unidentified, and many of the pieces produced by him for Rundell and Bridge in the Royal Collection must have sprung from designs commissioned by that firm rather than from his own invention. On the other hand they still existed in his Harrison Street workshop, until destroyed in World War II, a group of Piranesi engravings of classical vases and monuments bearing his signature, presumably used as source material for designs. The massiveness of the best of his compositions is well shown in the fine urn of 1800 at Woborn Abbey, but the Theocritus Cup in the Royal Collection must be essentially ascribed to the restraint of its designer John Flaxman, while not denying to Storr its superb execution. Lord Spencer's ice pails of 1817 show similar quality. Not all Storr's work however wasof classical inspiration. The candelabra of 1807 at Woburn derive from candlesticks by Paul Crespin of the George II period, formerly part of the Bedford Collection, and he attempted essays in floral rococo design from time to time, which tend to over-floridity. On occasions the excellence of his technical qualities was marred by a lack of good proportions, as in the chalices of the church plate of St Pancras, 1821. In spite of these small lapses there is no doubt that Storr rose to the demands made upon him as the author of more fine display plate than any other English goldsmith, including Paul De Lamerie, was ever called upon to produce.


The fabulous ‘Portsmouth’ candelabrum provides a banqueting-table centrepiece and incorporates horns signify ‘wellbeing’ and evoking the history of Jove/ Jupiter as recorded in the Roman ‘Fasti’ of the Augustan poet Ovid. It was manufactured during George IV’s Regency in the ‘antique’ fashion promoted by the court ‘Goldsmith’ Philip Rundell (d.1827) of  Messrs. Rundell, Bridge & Rundell  and would have been invented by their sculptor-designer John Flaxman R.A. (d.1826) and worked up by their Dean Street sculptor-modeller William Theed R.A. (d.1817).
Conceived as a Roman ‘candelabrum’ candlestick, it is environed by three pairs of foliated candlebranches that issue from a triumphal palm-flowered corona or calyx of acanthus foliage. This rises on a tripodic pedestal enwreathed by beribboned laurels, emblematic of lyric poetry, that garland whorled cornucopiae. These inverted goat-horns recall a Golden Age of Peace and Plenty and outpour an abundance of fruit and flowers on a Bacchic tray rimmed by vine-wrapped reeds that are sacred to the Arcadian ruler Pan. This produce of the kindly harvest deities Ceres and Bacchus brings to mind the Roman adage of the poet Terence that, ‘Venus (love) grows cold, without the presence of Bacchus (wine) and Ceres (food)’. So the grapes and pomegranates are accompanied by the rose that has been sacred to Venus since the setting of her foot on land.
The candelabrum’s commission was  an act of ‘Pietas’ that famed the ancient lineage of  John Charles Wallop, 3rd Earl of Portsmouth (d.1853) of Hurstbourne, Hampshire and was made  following the death of his mother Countess  Urania (d.1812), of neighbouring Farleigh House,  and his  marriage in 1814 to Mary Anne Hanson. It can be related to the magnificent entrance-piers of the Hurstbourne estate, designed for the Earl’s father by the Rome-trained court architect James Wyatt (d.1813). Here Coade stone renditions of the Wallop family armorials displayed the ‘Capra’ goat supporters that celebrate their 1743 elevation by George II as Earls of Portsmouth. The Portsmouth goat was intended to recall Ovid’s poetic history of the ancient gods. It was a horn, fallen from the  divine ‘Cretan’ goat Arethusa, that was wrapped in leaves by the naiad Amalthea, before  being filled  with fruit and herbs for the infant Jupiter on Mt. Ida. The candelabrum’s hollowed ‘altar’ pedestal is labelled by the engraved coronet-ensigned crest of the ortsmouths and features the dolphin-tailed nereids/ water-nymphs that attended the triumphal birth of the love-deity Venus.
The candelabrum’s robust form reflects the Grecian architectural taste encouraged by the Society of Dilletanti and  promoted in particular by Joseph Woods’  third and final edition of James Stuart and Nicholas Revett’s richly illustrated, ‘Antiquities of Athens’ (1762-1816) . It was a celebrated light-giving monument, engraved in the first edition, that provided inspiration for the candelabrum’s pillar. This was a small temple-rotunda, popularly associated with the Athenian orator Demosthenes, that had been erected by Lysicrates to hold aloft a sacred tripod. The enflamed and lion-pillared tripod, registering his chorus’ success at an Olympic festival in  honour of Dionysus/Bacchus, was raised on an Ionic capital  that was guarded by Venus’ embowed dolphins. Apart from exchanging horns for dolphins, Flaxman also translated other ornament from the Choragic Monument for the candelabra, where Bacchus’s sacred lions emerge from acanthus foliage to guard the Ionic wave-scrolled volutes forming the feet of its tray. Here too love’s triumphal birth is recorded by Venus’ palm-flowered and shell-scalloped  badges being suspended from its basket-like rim.
The candelabrum has its tazza-supported candle urns enriched by gadrooned ‘Pan’ reeds; while the arms comprise elegantly scrolled and fruiting vines that are wrapped by Roman acanthus and flowered by Grecian palms. It bears the 1817 date-letter and is proudly branded by the vendors’ Latin  inscription, ‘Rundell, Bridge et Rundell, Aurificers Regis et Principis Walliae Regentis Britannia’.  Appropriately it shares its candle branch pattern with those of Rundell’s contemporary candelabrum supplied to George, Prince Regent, later George IV and featuring the youthful Jupiter held aloft by the nymph Amalthea (see Christopher Hartop,’ Royal Goldsmiths’, 2005, fig. 74). 
Related ornament features in Flaxman’s candelabrum patterns preserved in Messrs. Rundell’s album held by the Victoria & Albert Museum.

The Portsmouth Candelabrum Centrepiece (1771 - Tooting 1844) Reference: 21740.1