Silver & Glass
Victorian, London, 1881
Maker’s mark of William Leuchars
Length: 35 cm, 13.8 in.
Height: 23.8 cm, 9.4 in.
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William Leuchars was the son of James Leuchars, the founder of the original company that passed to his widow Lucy Leuchars upon his death; the firm then being known as Lucy Leuchars & Son, 1841. After Lucy’s death in 1847, sole ownership of the business was transferred to William. Best known for producing the finest quality dressing cases, the firm exhibited and won prize medals at the Great Exhibition 1851, the International Exhibition 1862, and the International Exposition 1867 in Paris. In 1870, William Leuchars and his son, also called William, opened a further shop in Paris under the name Leuchars & Son. William Jnr took control over the business on his fathers’ death in 1871 and went on to win a gold medal at the International Exposition 1878, Paris, for the firms dressing cases.Description
Naturalistically modelled in the form of a walrus, the head with glass eyes and tusks, and finely cast and chased with striations akin to hair - the flippers also with linear chasing. The head hinges, with the aid of a thumb piece, and the mouth forms a spout. An Austro-Hungarian coat-of-arms engraved in the glass to the front of the jug.
The fashion for zoomorphic claret jugs dates to the sixteenth century. However, it was towards the end of the nineteenth century that silversmiths reached ‘the zenith of creativity’ in the vast production and variety of animal-form claret jugs produced at this time. It is generally accepted that this trend was spurred into further popularity by the silversmith Alexander Crichton after having formed a partnership with John Curry in 1880. Other silversmiths keenly followed this zoomorphic boom. It has been suggested that Crichton’s inspiration for such fantastical creations stemmed from the illustrations by Sir John Tenniel in Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ – in this case the form of a walrus from the Walrus and the Carpenter. The early 1880s was the greatest period of production for zoomorphic claret jugs but despite their vast production their fragility accounts for the relatively few examples that survive today.
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