Christian Hillan

A Rococo Masterpiece - Soup Tureen

Christian Hillan

A Rococo Masterpiece - Soup Tureen

George II
London, 1736
Maker’s mark of Christian Hillan

Height: 26.5cm, 10.5 in.
Length: 40cm, 15.75 in.
Weight : 4,433 g, 156.37 oz

The body, in the Rococo style and lavishly ornate, with finely chased bas-relief. The sides flanked with putti bearing wheat sheafs and holding a cartouche bearing the coat-of-arms. The cartouche applied on a background of clouds from which springs a bird with open wings and a phoenix on a pedestal rising from the ashes. All elements emerging from the water, with marine elements and vegetation on the background. The finial formed as a leafed artichoke. The cover with cast and applied foliate decoration, putti and floral elements. The four volute feet resting on acanthus leaves, the feet terminating with female busts on the main body.

The arms are those of Robert Hampden-Trevor, 1st Viscount Hampden (17 February 1706 – 22 August 1783) who was a British diplomat in The Hague and then joint Postmaster General.

He was the eldest son of the second marriage of Thomas Trevor and studied at Queens College, Oxford, graduating in 1725 and then becoming a fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. In 1729, he was appointed as a clerk in the Secretary of State's office. In 1734 he went to the United Provinces as secretary to the embassy under Horatio Walpole. He succeeded as head of the embassy in 1739, initially as Envoy-Extraordinary, and from 1741 as Minister-Plenipotentiary. During this time, he maintained a regular correspondence with Horace Walpole. In 1750 he was appointed a commissioner of the Revenue in Ireland. He took the additional name of Hampden in 1754, on succeeding to the estates of that family, from John Hampden. In 1776, twelve years after he had succeeding his brother as Baron Trevor, he was created Viscount Hampden. From 1759 to 1765 he was joint Postmaster General. He wrote Latin poems which were published at Parma, 1792 as Poemata Hampdeniana. His second son, John Hampden-Trevor (1749–1824), died only three weeks after he had succeeded his brother Thomas as 3rd Viscount Hampden, the titles becoming extinct.

Former collection of Joseph Simard (Sorel, Quebec).
Private collection, Montreal.

Very little is known of the silversmith Christian Hillan, who flourished in London for a few years from the time of entering his first mark as a plate worker on 20 April 1736. His name, it is thought, suggests that he may have been a Scandinavian immigrant.

His most productive period seems to have been immediately following his move about 1740 to the sign of the Crown and Golden Ball, Compton Street, Soho. His vacated premises there were subsequently taken by William Cripps who at that time (1743) was a next-door neighbour of Nicholas Sprimont. All three silversmiths worked in the fashionable rococo style but whereas Hillan disappears from the records in late 1742 or early 1743, and Sprimont went on in the mid-1740s to open the Chelsea porcelain factory, Cripps moved in 1746 to St. James's Street where he successfully continued the business established by David Willaume.

a rare maker who is associated with the group of foreign-trained craftsmen in the circle of Paul de Lamerie. Along with the German immigrant James Shruder, the Liege-born Nicolas Sprimont and the French Huguenot Paul Crespin, Hillan brought Continental-inspired rococo fashion to the Lamerie group. Until 1742 Hillan occupied premises in Compton Street, Soho, next door to Sprimont, and it is likely that he did work for, or supplied silver to, the Lamerie group (see Christopher Hartop, The Huguenot Legacy, English Silver 1680-1760 from the Alan and Simone Harman Collection, 1996, p. 304, for a coffee jug by Hillan with scenic rather than sculptural decoration). It is not certain whether Hillan's origins were German or Scandinavian.
Some works by Hillan are related to the published engravings of Caspar Gottlieb Eisler of Nuremberg, which in turn owe a debt to the designs of Juste-Aurle Meissonnier, one of the earliest and most influential proponents of the rococo style. The German interpretation of this essentially French style are characterized by a boldness of outline, seen in the shells and scrolls of both the Eisler print and his pieces, and the fan-like, "bat-wing" motif which surmounts the shells seen on surviving pieces. Interestingly, German influences can be seen in the designs of a French migre to London, Hubert François Gravelot, who was perhaps the most important promoter of the rococo style in England during his stay there between 1733 and 1745. George Vertue says that Gravelot designed for silversmiths but, apart from a watercolour design for ornament in the Victoria and Albert Museum, which also has "bat's wing" rocaille and a matted background very similar to the decoration on pieces by Hillan, virtually nothing remains to document Gravelot's involvement in silver design during the period (see Mark Girouard, "Coffee at Slaughter’s?" Country Life, 13 and 27 January and 3 February, 1966). Based on this design, it is tempting to suggest Gravelot as the designer to a number of Hillan’s woks and to see Hillan as part of the group of craftsmen, painters and designers who formed part of the group centred around the St. Martin's Lane Academy. Certainly, the highly developed rococo decoration of his pieces places them at the forefront of rococo silver design in England, even among the silversmiths of the Lamerie group.

You May Also Like

A Fabulous Pair of Victorian Claret Jugs

John Samuel Hunt

A Paul Storr Coffee Jug on Stand

Paul Storr

An Exquisite Rococo Sauceboat

Frederick Kandler

An Early 18th Century Monteith Bowl

Thomas Parr I

Christian Hillan