Robert Hennell George III Antique Sterling Silver 7-Basket Epergne, London, 1787/88
One of the great staples of an elegant dining room has always been the epergne. They came in all shapes and sizes of various designs. These rare centerpieces had important placements on dining tables and sideboards and often contained displays of fruit and petit fours for guests to admire and snack from.
This model (230 years old!) is particularly attractive due to its size and decoration. The main frame terminates at the bottom with hairy-paw feet Curved bands of fluted wire act to give more support to the legs and also add decoration. The four columns are beautifully pierced with classical leaf design and hand-engraved for detail. The tops of these columns have engraved squares and are attached to an oval ring, once again beautifully pierced with a row of horizontal leaves and engraved with lovely bright-cut details.
Attached to the interior of this oval ring are six arm holders which are capped with decorative leaf covers. There are two types of removable arms. Four smaller arms, partially covered in leaves, scroll outwards from the front and back and have round cup holders. The two other arms on the ends are a little more elaborate with a scroll and flower in bloom. The cup holders on these are navette shaped.
The six cups are all pierced and engraved with stunning foliate scroll design.
Four supports connect the central oval ring and the large basket. The base and tops of the supports are chased with leaves. The supports are pierced and chased similar to the lower legs.
The large basket, in keeping with the style of the piece, is pierced to compliment the horizontal movement of the oval ring of the base.
The large basket is magnificent. Its majestic position on top of the epergne does it justice. The oval shape has graceful loop handles and exceptional piercework and chasing. The hand-pierced work creates a magnificent scrolling display of leaves enhanced with engraved decoration.
This exceptional epergne was made by the famous silversmith Robert Hennell. It is of exceptional quality. Due to its hand decoration, its size and its restraint from overdecoration, it has an elegant and charming presence.
The condition of this epergne is lovely. Each cup is hallmarked with the maker's mark, lion passant and sovereign head. The central basket and the holder it fits into are full hallmarked meaning they have all the previous marks along with the 'm' 1787/88 date mark. Five of the six arm posts, which fit into the frame, are hallmarked with a lion passant and numbered so you know where each arm belongs. One post is unmarked and that arm is well restored.
The epergne measures 22.5 inches wide by 17 inches deep by 18.25 inches high, weighs 83.85 troy ounces and is in stunning antique condition.
Provenance: Harry Ashby DeButts, former President of Southern Railroad, purchased from Shrubsole in New York City in the 1960's, by descent in the family.