This exceptional silver soup tureen is one of only two oversize items ever created by legendary English silversmith Hester Bateman, and it was presented to Robert Harding, the Sheriff of Cork by the City of Cork. The Greco-Roman design is perfectly balanced and proportional, with Bateman’s trademark beading, intricate bright-cut engraving and upswept reeded handles flowing gracefully into the upturned lid. A solid, perfectly scaled finial completes the elegant form. Bateman is considered the finest classical silversmith of the Georgian era, and the exemplary look of this vessel displays all the hallmarks of Bateman's incredible talent.
This tureen was presented to Sheriff Robert Harding in 1798 for his bravery in helping to preserve law and order in the city of Cork during the Irish Rebellion of that year. Cork is the largest county in Ireland, and the County of Cork is home to a strategic harbor along the River Lee that rebels (the Society of United Irishmen and the Catholic resistance group known as the Defenders) attempted to capture during the uprising. Dublin had been the center of the uprising that began in 1791, but by 1798, the chaos had spread to the surrounding counties, including Cork. Despite the danger of assassination by the rebels, Harding, along with Irish military enforcements, continuously and successfully fended off attacks until the end of the year, during which all but a number of small guerilla groups had been crushed.
The body of the vessel bears the arms of both Robert Harding and the city of Cork, while the lid is engraved with an inscription commemorating the sheriff's efforts during the rebellion. In all, this tureen represents the pinnacle of Georgian silversmithing and an important moment in the history of British rule in Ireland.
Inscribed: "In the year MDCCXCVIII when the Kingdom of Ireland was disgraced by a rebellion, exceeding in cruelty, barbarity and ingratitude, every other on record, it was the providential good fortune of the City of Cork to have the important office of Sheriff filled by Robert Harding, ESQ’, who actuated by loyalty and regardless of danger (tho he well knew his assassination was a primary object of the disaffected) by unremitting vigilance & activity in the discharge of the several duties of his station was, under heaven, a chief instrument in preserving that city from the calamites which desolated so many other parts of the realm, therefore, the mayor, sheriffs, and commonalty of the City of Cork have presented him with this piece of plate and as a small memorial of their grateful sense of his merit."
Hallmarked London, 1787
17 3/4” wide x 8 1/2” deep x 11 1/2” high
Presented to Robert Harding, Sheriff of Cork
Christie’s London, 23 June 1971
Private collection, Texas
M.S. Rau, New Orleans, 2021