Maker’s mark of William Pitts, retailed by Rundell,
Bridge & Rundell, the Royal Goldsmiths
Diameter: 22 1⁄4 in (56.2 cm)
Weight: 195 oz 10 dwt (6,080 g)
Mrs C. Kisielewski Dunbar, Sotheby’s, London, June 11, 1970, lot 237
Collection of C. Ruxton Love and Audrey B. Love, Christie’s, New York, October 19, 2004, lot 253
V. Brett, The Sotheby’s Directory of Silver, London, 1984, p. 259
A. Phillips and J. Sloane, Antiquity Revisited: English and French Silver-Gilt from the Audrey Love Collection, London, 1997, p. 50, no. 8
C. Hartop, Royal Goldsmiths: The Art of Rundell & Bridge, 1797–1843, exh. cat., Koopman Rare Art, London, 2005, p. 122, p. 151, no. 27
London, 2005, Royal Goldsmiths: The Art of Rundell & Bridge, 1797–1843, Koopman Rare Art, no. 27
Son of Thomas Pitts of the Parish of St. Mary Whitechapel, apprenticed to Charles Hatfield 6 December 1737 and turned over to David Willaume (II) February 1742. Free, 16 January 1744. The mark now attributed here to him must have been entered not long after the start of the missing register of 1758-73, and he appears as plateworker, Air Street, St.James's, in the Parl. Report list 1773. Heal records him as working silversmith and chaser, Golden Cup, 20 Air Street, Piccadilly, 1767-93. The 'Workmen's Ledgers' of Parker and Wakelin (Garrard MSS., Victoria & Albert Museum) contain many pages of accounts from Pitts for epergnes from 1766, from which the identification of the mark, formerly attributed to Thomas Powell, in absence of any other evidence was natural enough. His three sons, Thomas, William and Joseph were all apprenticed to him in Air Street, 1767, 1769 and 1772. It is interesting to note that Joseph was apprenticed to his father and turned over the same day to Philip Day plate casemaker and leatherseller and described as plate casemaker on attaining his freedom in 1781. The continuous need for cases for the output of epergnes and centrepieces must have led to a close connection with Day probably a desire to have a member of the family sharing in the business arising.Description
This important dish is among the earliest examples of the revival of chased Renaissance display silver promoted by the Royal Goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, which was to be enthusiastically taken up by the Prince Regent. The scene of the Feast of the Gods is based on a series of three bronze reliefs which have been attributed to Guglielmo della Porta.
Other versions of this dish include a pair of 1810 and 1812 in the Royal Collection, and another on loan to the Brighton Pavilion.
The first decade of the nineteenth century was a time of tremendous creativity in English silver, led by Rundell’s, who operated a network of silversmiths, designers and chasers. They promoted the “Imperial” style, produced mainly in the workshop of Paul Storr, which mingled architectural motifs from both Greece and Rome on classical vase shapes. It was to the Pitts family studio that Rundell’s turned for re-creations of renaissance sculpture to be incorporated into dishes which revived the seventeenth-century tradition of grandiose circular and oval display dishes.
Interestingly, Rundell’s sold dishes of this design to their leading clients, such as William Pole-Tylney-Long- Wellesley and the Marquess of Ormonde, before the Prince Regent purchased his two, the first in June 1811 and the second in October 1812. “In the field of plate [the Prince Regent] seems to have been content to follow rather than lead the field. In a curious inversion of the traditional practice of court patronage, the driving force in the design and production of innovative gold and silver work was the supplier, Rundell’s, and their market … [The Prince Regent] often bought plate after the model had already been produced and sold to other clients” (C. Hartop, op. cit., p. 96).
Rundell’s 1812 invoice to the Prince Regent describes one of his dishes as:
A richly chased sideboard dish, to match His Royal Highnesses [sic], and with devices of the Feast of the Gods, from a design by Michael Angelo, with chased mosaic border, 284 oz. 15 dwt., fashion 12s oz. = £291/17/4; engraving crest and coronet, 9s; gilding all over dead and red, £96 (E. Alfred Jones, The Gold and Silver of Windsor Castle, 1911, p. 114)
William Pitts senior was the son of Thomas Pitts, a large-scale manufacturer of epergnes and other table silver for retailers such as Rundell’s. From 1791 to 1799 William Pitts was in partnership with Joseph Preedy. In 1806 his son William had joined him as an apprentice and he went on to become one of the leading silver chasers of his time. He worked not only for Rundell’s, for whom he chased at least one of the versions of the Achilles Shield, but also for their rivals, Green, Ward and Green, where he worked on Stothard’s Wellington Shield. In 1812 he was awarded the Iris medal from the Society of Arts for modelling.
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