The Worshipful Company of Grocers Centerpiece

  • This monumental silver centerpiece and plateau was made for the Worshipful Company of Grocers
  • The company was the wealthiest trade guild of its day in England
  • Crafted by royal silversmiths R & S Garrard, it demonstrates the firm's reputation for perfection
  • Additionally, this piece once belonged to the legendary Al-Tajir silver collection
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-4725

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Commanding in its provenance, stature and workmanship, this monumental silver centerpiece and mirrored plateau is among the finest works of English silver ever crafted. It was made for the wealthiest British guild of the day, the Worshipful Company of Grocers, by the renowned royal silversmiths R & S Garrard led by Robert Garrard II, and its extravagant artistry reflects these prestigious associations. Additionally, this centerpiece is as stunning in provenance as it is in craftsmanship. It once belonged to the legendary Al-Tajir Collection, which is considered the most outstanding private collection of silver ever established. 

Garrard created this centerpiece especially for the Worshipful Company of Grocers, one of London’s Great Twelve Livery Companies, or trade associations. Descended from the medieval guild system, the group was established in 1345 for merchants occupied in grocer’s trade. Garrard was an obvious choice for this particular commission, as his family had enjoyed a long association with the group. His ancestor, Sir Samuel Garrard Bt., was a Master within the Grocer’s Company, and Robert Garrard II himself first joined the organization in 1816 and became a master in 1853. Garrard produced a number of silver objects for the Company between 1836 and 1877, however, it is this centerpiece that stands among the firm’s masterpieces.

This centerpiece is exceptionally thoughtful and dynamic in its design, incorporating the symbols most meaningful to the Grocer’s Company. When the Company was founded, it was responsible for establishing and maintaining standards for weights and measures and for the purity of spices. The Company’s official crest is a camel, representing the Middle Eastern spice trade, and this centerpiece’s circular form is surrounded by recumbent camels and their riders chased in true-to-life detail. The figures are joined by a cornucopia of silver fruits and Rococo foliate accents, as well as the Grocer’s coat of arms. The centerpiece and plateau were likely produced from a model by Edmund Cotterill, a highly respected sculptor and the chief designer for R & S Garrard. At the time of this work’s creation, Cotterill had just returned from a trek to the East, where he had become intimately familiar with the region’s scenery and ornament. 

The son of Robert Garrard Senior, Goldsmith and Jeweler to His Majesty George III, Robert Garrard II, and his brothers James and Sebastian succeeded their father in running the goldsmithing company that would eventually become R & S Garrard. During the mid-19th century, following the decline of the goldsmith firm Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, Robert Garrard II greatly expanded his father’s firm, which became the leading producer of presentation silver. Garrard acquired the title of Royal Goldsmiths and Jewelers to the King in 1830 and Official Crown Jewelers in 1843, an honor which led to the production of numerous pieces of silverware and jewelry for the Royal Family, as well as the upkeep of the Crown Jewels. In this role, they were famous for creating the small diamond crown worn by Queen Victoria after she returned to public life following the death of her husband, Prince Albert. A superb example of Victorian silver, this centerpiece and plateau beautifully demonstrate Garrard’s reputation for perfection in both design and craft. 

The fact that the piece was part of the Al-Tajir collection is a testament to its tremendous importance. The Al-Tajir Collection of gold and silver was assembled by Mohamad Mehdi Al-Tajir, former United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United Kingdom. The collection comprises the finest examples of English silver, all of which were hand-selected for the impeccable level of design and technical prowess they represent. In fact, it is considered the greatest compilation of silver ever assembled. This centerpiece is featured in the book The Al Tajir Collection of Silver and Gold, Volume I by J.B. Hawkins, outlining this outstanding collection. It was also featured in the exhibition Masterpieces of English and European Silver and Gold at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. The quality and craftsmanship of the pieces, as is standard with objects by Garrard, are truly unsurpassed and befitting of the Al-Tajir association.

Hallmarked London, 1842

35 1/4" diameter x 18" high

Provenance: 
The Worshipful Company of Grocers
Sotheby’s Belgravia, July 28, 1977, lot 478
The Al-Tajir Collection, London

Exhibited:
Sydney Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1980, no. 37

Literature:
The Al-Tajir Collection of Silver and Gold: Volume I, 1983, J.B. Hawkins, p. 176-178
The Glory of the Goldsmith: Magnificant Gold and Silver from the Al-Tajir Collection, 1989, Christie’s, p. 220
Masterpieces of English and European Silver & Gold, 1979, J.B. Hawkins, p. 94-95

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The Worshipful Company of Grocers Centerpiece
Maker: Garrard, Robert
Period: 19th Century
Origin: England
Type: Centerpieces
Depth: 35.25 Inches
Width: 35.25 Inches
Height: 18.0 Inches
Style: Victorian
The Worshipful Company of Grocers Centerpiece
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