The term Georgian Silver is one most collectors are familiar with, though it is one that is quite broad in scope, ranging from 1714 and the reign of George I through 1830, ending with the reign of George IV. It is doubtful that when a young King George I ascended the throne in 1714 that his primary concern was the exaltation of the silversmith's art. But for whatever reason, and there were certainly many catalysts, the 18th century and early 19th century were truly the golden age of silver design and production.
Discussion of the great silversmiths and silver of this period almost invariably involves three silversmiths whose work has become synonymous with the Georgian ear. Paul de Lamerie, Hester Bateman and Paul Storr were each exemplary smiths enjoying a great deal of prosperity and success in their careers, and they share the distinction of being among the most highly respected and collected silversmiths today.
Over a period of more than 100 years, de Lamerie, Bateman and Storr built reputations for their superior quality and craftsmanship, often counting royalty and the nobility from England and abroad among their clientele. While de Lamerie is most noted for his exuberant rococo work, Bateman's pieces are characterized by their elegant simplicity of form and decoration. Storr would later introduce into his work both neo-classic and highly decorative design elements.
Given the times in which they lived and worked, the lives of de Lamerie, Bateman and Storr were all quite interesting. Despite the more than 200 years that separate them from modern businessmen and women, they faced many of the same challenges. For the most part, they enjoyed a great deal of success and left behind a most impressive legacy of sterling treasures.
Paul de Lamerie: Setting the Standard
For well over 250 years Paul de Lamerie has been universally considered not only one of the most important English goldsmiths, but among the most important English craftsmen of all time. His extraordinary works range from the elegant simplicity of the Queen Anne style to the elaborate rococo style for which he is most remembered. It was de Lamerie who was one of the first to incorporate French rococo design with English silver, raising his art to a standard that had never before been seen, nor since duplicated
De Lamerie was born in the Netherlands, where his Huguenot parents had fled from France to avoid religious persecution. The Edict of Nantes, a proclamation by Henri IV in 1598 protecting the religious liberties of the Huguenots (French Clavinist Protestants), was revoked in 1685 by Louis XIV and resulted in more than 400,000 Protestants fleeing to England, Prussia, Holland and America.
Many of these Huguenots were expert craftsmen and this exodus spread their enormous talent throughout Europe and America. While in the Netherlands, de Lamerie's father served in the militia of William of Orange, who was later to become King of England. Shortly after their son's birth, the de Lamerie family moved to London settling in the Huguenot refugee community of Soho.
At the age of 15, de Lamerie was apprenticed to a well-known Huguenot craftsman, Pierre Platel (Paul Plattell). De Lamerie's teacher created some of the most exceptional pieces of the time, including a magnificent silver service for George, Prince of Wales (later to become King George II). Platel proved to be a formidable mentor, providing his young apprentice with a thorough understanding and appreciation of the art of silversmithing. De Lamerie possessed a natural talent for the trade, and his skill quickly surpassed even that of his teacher.
An Independent Streak
Despite his enormous talent, de Lamerie possessed a strong independent streak, often sidestepping or altogether ignoring the laws that governed his trade. It was a trait that earned both dismay and respect from his peers as well as his patrons. He became a freeman of the Goldsmith's Company in 1712 registering his first of five marks, two of which were never officially recorded. Why he failed to register these marks is debatable, but it was the first sign of the lack of regard for the Company.
This wasn't the only Guild regulation the young de Lamerie so nonchalantly ignored. According to the minutes recorded by the Company, his early career is
peppered with numerous complaints from fellow members, the first in July 1714 when he was fined £20 for not having his work hallmarked.
Other recorded indiscretions included passing off the work of other smiths as pieces of his own, most likely Huguenots who were not yet free of the Goldsmith's Company or who did not have registered marks. It is almost certain that de Lamerie profited handsomely for this service. He was not only a talented silversmith, but also a shrewd businessman.
In 1717 de Lamerie was reprimanded for selling pieces that had not been assayed or marked. Before issuing a punishment for the rogue smith, Guild officials became aware that he was working on a large quantity of spoons. Certain his intentions were to skirt the law, they deferred action against de Lamerie and waited to see if he would, indeed, bring his work in to be marked. Fortunately for de Lamerie, he received word of the sting operations and sent all of his pieces in for marking. Therefore, no further action was taken. Despite his brushes with the Guild authorities, there could be no denying this smith's popularity and success.
It was during the same year that de Lamerie married a woman named Louisa Juillot, also of Huguenot ancestry. This marked the commencement of a successful career for the young craftsman. During their life together, his wife gave birth to six children, three of whom died in infancy.
From 1715 to 1749, de Lamerie employed 13 apprentices in his prosperous workshop, many assisting in the creation of some of the most exquisite silver works England had ever seen. Like all successful smiths of the Georgian period, a majority of the pieces that bear the hallmark of Paul de Lamerie are not those of a single man, but rather those of a team of craftsmen whose standards reached unrivaled excellence. De Lamerie imposed his technical brilliance and innovation upon his craftsmen who flawlessly carried out his vision.
In addition to his workshop, de Lamerie also operated a retail business that included the sale of jewelry and silver under the popular trade name of The Golden Ball. His thriving business soon earned him enormous respect among his colleagues and, despite repeated violations of the Goldsmith's Company regulations, de Lamerie was admitted into the Livery of the Company in 1717, the very same year he was admonished for not marking his wares.
As word of de Lamerie's skills spread, he began supplying orders to the Russian Imperial Court, English nobility and upper class. By 1723, his esteemed clientele included Sir William Trumbull, Lord Foley, the Countess of Berkeley, Viscount Tyrconnel, Lord Gower, the Earl of Bristol and the Duke of Bedford. His most influential client was Parliamentarian Sir Robert Walpole, who served as the first Prime Minister, leader of the House of Commons, First Lord of the Treasury, and Chancellor of the Exchequer. Although the title was never official, de Lamerie was often referred to as "the King's Silversmith."
The 1730s proved to be opportune for de Lamerie. Previously, silversmiths had mainly relied on production results rather than expressing individuality in their craft. The highly decorative pieces produced by de Lamerie soon changed the course of the art of silver decoration. A quote from his obituary in the London Evening Post states that de Lamerie was "particularly famous in making fine ornamental Plate, and has been very instrumental in bringing that Branch of Trade to the perfection it is now in."
Highly decorative silver wares were engraved, chased, repousséd and applied with natural motifs of sea monsters, asymmetrical cartouches, shells, marine plants, and figures. In 1732, after entering his fourth known mark (and second official mark), de Lamerie began using the lower British sterling standard that had been approved by the Company in 1720. Until then, he had worked entirely in the more pure Britannia standard, yet the sterling standard proved to be more conducive to his expertly modeled rococo ornamentation.
Moving Up in the Ranks
De Lamerie continued to move up in the ranks of the Goldsmith's Company during this time and in 1731 he was chosen to be an assistant. Notwithstanding his irreverent history with the guild, once he obtained membership on the court of the Hall, he garnered a great deal of respect. The Company minutes even record an instance when members literally begged the craftsman to view and assist in making a final decision for a new stove grate and fireplace tools to be placed in the Hall's parlor.
By now, de Lamerie had become a man of considerable means, buying parcels of land and lending money on mortgages. In 1737, he was appointed to serve as a trade member on a "Special Committee for the Parliament Business" which was assigned to prepare a petition and bill designed to prevent fraud in the manufacturing of gold and silver wares, quite ironic when one considers de Lamerie's history of disregard for the authority of the company.
Despite this prestigious appointment, within that very same year, de Lamerie supplied a "duty dodger" ewer to Lord Hardwicke, the Chief Justice. Cognizant of his own situation, de Lamerie vigorously opposed a clause in the petition that would have granted the Goldsmith's Company officials the right to search the workshops of its members. His strong opposition led to the clause being removed from the petition. After this small victory, de Lamerie failed to show for any other committee meetings until the signing of the final report, which became the Plate Offences Act of 1738/9.
The Goldsmith's Company elected de Lamerie to the position of Fourth Warden of the Company in 1743, Third Warden in 1746 and Second Warden the following year. This rapid succession within the ranks of the Company was very uncommon and quite an honor. The only thing that prevented de Lamerie from becoming Prime Warden of the Company was his ill health.
It is often stated that Paul de Lamerie is the only 18th century silversmith remembered by name rather than just by his craft. Distinguished among his peers and heralded by noblemen, royalty and middle class patrons, his mark on the production and craft of English silver is eternal. Without question, de Lamerie produced the finest English rococo silver ever created. After what his will described as a "long and tedious" illness, de Lamerie died on August 1, 1751.
Today de Lamerie's pieces rank among the most extraordinary and recognized pieces of any silver collection. Generally, his works are some of the most expensive pieces on the market today, as they are unsurpassed in quality and craftsmanship. De Lamerie's exquisite silver wares are prized possessions of several museums and decorative art collections including London's Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Museum of Scotland (Edinburgh), London Goldsmith's Company, the Art Institute of Chicago and The Frick Collection in New York.
Leading Lady Hester Bateman
Before the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s put men in factories and made them primary wage earner of the family, women had more latitude in their mode of earning a living — and gaining fame.
But even then, the most successful women were often widows who carried on the family business rather than women who began a thriving business for themselves. However, regardless of the name on the door, during the 18th century most small businesses were actually "mom and pop" ventures, so when a woman was widowed, she was highly trained and was, in many cases, the brains or the talent of the enterprise.
The same was true for female silversmiths. Notable and talented women such as Hester Bateman, Rebecca Eames, Louisa Courtauld and Jane Williams continued the businesses their husbands began, in many cases far exceeding their partner's fame and success. Unfortunately, even today, the accomplishments of these extraordinary women have taken a back seat to those of the men in their lives.
Hester Bateman was a model product of these times. The combination of her dominant personality and talent for business as well as a gift for emphasizing the simplistic, elegant forms of her craft, made her one of the most famed of the Georgian silversmiths.
Beginning of a Legacy
Hester Bateman was born the youngest of five children in London in 1708. There is no record of her childhood. All relevant documents of her trade are signed with the "cross of the illiterate," indicating that she received little or no formal education.
It is believed that it was her older brother John who introduced her to her husband John Bateman (1704-1760). Despite poor finances, he and Hester married at The Fleet, where many legal yet hasty marriages were contrived for the price of a dram (1/16 of an ounce) of gin or a roll of tobacco by priests imprisoned for debt. They were later married in a church ceremony at the Church of St. Botolph, Aldersgate in 1732.
John Bateman is described in many London records as a Gold Chain Maker, Watch Chain Maker, Wire Drawer, Goldsmith and Silversmith. There are no records of his ever taking an apprenticeship in any of these trades, nor are there any records of his attaining his freedom from any of the Companies of London. Between the 1730s and 40s, London law required all men working under the their own account to obtain their Freedom (right of passage from apprentice to artisan) from one of the Companies of the specific craft studied. It is likely he did contract work out of his home for master-men in all of these areas, but was never fully trained in any of them. It was by assisting her husband on these smaller pieces that Hester would learn to use the tools of the silversmith's trade.
As her skill as a silversmith emerged, and grew, so did her family. John and Hester moved their growing family to 107 Bunhill Row in the county of Middlesex where they devoted an entire work area to the family business. After enjoying much prosperity, John died of tuberculosis in 1760. In his will, he bequeathed to Hester the tools of his trade and the entire business— opening the doors for a new era for the House of Bateman.
Hester registered her first of nine punch-marks with the Goldsmith's Hall in 1761. From 1761 to 1774, there exist few examples of Bateman silver because almost all of the output of the Bateman workshop was commissioned by other silversmiths who recognized her talent and skill, which in many cases equaled and often surpassed their own. She often placed her punch-mark on many of these pieces. Concerned for their own reputations, other smiths would over-stamp her punch-mark with their own— a practice that continued even after Hester had established herself as a mastersmith.
A Style All Her Own
The style of Hester Bateman's wares truly shows her innovative and daring qualities as a silversmith. She chose austere, elegant forms that emphasized the importance of line and classical taste rather than the highly ornamental designs of the then-popular rococo style. Her signature decoration of thin-line beading was perfect for accentuating the elements that she held to be fundamental to her craft. Also, the simplistic forms she chose allowed her to create domestic silver pieces for England's rising middle class. She made a virtue of lowering her cost without sacrificing quality, allowing her to successfully compete with the popularity of Sheffield plate and spread the enjoyment of silver far beyond the world of Church and nobility.
It is clear to see the progression of skill in Hester's work over the 30-year period that she owned and operated the Bateman workshops. Her early work shows her talent in the design of flatware, which consisted mainly of spoons. Later, she turned to creating small domestic pieces such as salts and cream jugs. The emergence of tea as a national beverage and social institution meant a demand for serving sets and attendant pieces. Hester excelled in the creation of these wares which included sugar bowls, tea urns, trays, salvers and dishes.
By the 1780s, Bateman silver was in high demand. Orders for domestic, civic and ecclesiastical pieces came from as far away as the city of Kingston. Production expanded to a small number of domestic pieces such as medallions, snuff boxes and seals. Various companies such as the Needle makers, Coopers and Grocers commissioned such items as covered cups, coffee urns and large sets of flatware. Pieces of Bateman silver can still be found in the parish churches of England, the most important of these being the vergers' wands still in use in St. Paul's Cathedral in London.
It would have been an arduous task for one person alone, even of Hester's strong character, to produce the amount of work that came from the Bateman workshop between 1760 to 1791, the year she retired. Her sons John, Peter, William and Jonathan were talented silversmiths in their own right. They along with her apprentice John Linney and Jonathan's wife Ann (who came from a long line of Huguenot silversmiths), worked under Hester's careful supervision and tutelage, creating an estimated 11,000 pieces over the 30-year period.
Hester retired in 1791 at the age of 82. She completely severed any ties to the family business and moved to St. Andrew's in Holborn with her recently widowed daughter of Letticia Clarke. Hester died three years later on September 26, 1794.
The Bateman legacy still lives on in the collections of antique collectors, enthusiasts and museums that display her remarkable work. Hester's exquisite pieces continue to awe even the most avid collector. Her attention to detail, simplicity of form, and timeless taste make Hester Bateman truly the Queen of the Georgian Silversmiths.
The Legacy of Paul Storr
Without question, Paul Storr can be considered among history's finest smiths and he will long be remembered for perfecting the works, styles and designs of the Regency period.
Storr pursued a career in silversmithing at an early age, apprenticing to Swedish-born smith Andrew Fogleberg when he was only 14. Fogleberg's interest in the neo-classical style greatly influenced his student, and in the young Paul Storr, he had found a most avid and accomplished protege.
Storr entered his first mark in 1792, which reflects his short-lived partnership with William Frisbee. Soon after, he began to use his PS mark, which he maintained for the duration of his career with only minor changes. Though he held no official title, Storr enjoyed patronage from many important and powerful figures of the period, including King George III. His first major work was a gold font commissioned by the Duke of Portland in 1797 and in 1799 he created the "Battle of the Nile Cup" for Lord Nelson.
Much of Storr's success was partly due to the influence of Phillip Rundell, of the popular silver retailing firm of Rundell, Bridge and Rundell. Rundell's firm nearly monopolized the early 19th century market for superior silver and obtained the Royal Warrant in 1806. This shrewd businessman realized the talent of Paul Storr and began pursuing him in 1803, but it wasn't until after declining many offers that Storr finally joined the firm in 1806.
After many years of working for Rundell, Storr realized he had lost much of his artistic freedom and by 1819 he left the firm to open his own shop, turning his attentions towards more naturalistic designs and soon began enjoying the patronage he desired.
After only a few years of independence, Storr realized he needed a centralized retail location and partnered with John Mortimer, founding Storr and Mortimer in 1822 on Bond Street. By 1838, his latest collaboration became riddled with complications, mostly due to Mortimer's poor management of the business. Storr retired from silversmithing and at the age of 68 he and his wife, Elizabeth, moved to Tooting in 1839. Storr died just five years later.
Paul Storr's legacy is a remarkable body of work with far-reaching influences. Neo-classical pieces, and exuberant, ornate vessels, Storr imparted a level of craftsmanship and superior quality that has seldom been seen since. His efforts were not reserved for his more prestigious pieces. In fact, every piece of Storr silver was given the same superior level of quality, receiving the benefit of being created from the finest high-gauge silver.