The pairing of antique and contemporary silver objects throws up illuminating relationships and contrasts, says Philippa Glanville
THIS lively, homegrown exhibition, the third in the centenary year of the elegant Holburne Museum, one of Bath’s great assets, takes a fresh look at historic and contemporary silver, contrasting and comparing the two. Close to home is a treasured and rarely seen object, Bath’s gilded cup and cover, which was presented by Frederick, Prince of Wales after his visit to the city in 1738.
The joy of the exhibition is that each contemporary piece is set beside something older, giving us a refreshing jolt into looking—and in detail—at what might seem unrelated historic objects.
A twisting flask belonging to a set of 15th-century French buffet plate, lent by All Souls College, Oxford, sits beside the Goldsmiths Hall’s vase Aqua Poesy VII, raised by Hiroshi Suzuki in 2003 using the same technique that makes their surfaces appear to ripple. Jane Short’s richly chased Millennium Dish, swirling with sun, moon and stars in gold and blue enamel, contrasts with a Tudor silver and gilded basin enamelled with the arms of the Mostyn family, both made to be admired for their tour de force skill and aesthetic impact.
In the latest of an excellent tradition of partnerships, Catrin Jones, curator of decorative art at the Holburne, has worked with Vanessa Brett, a longestablished silver scholar knowledgeable about both techniques and silver history. An introductory panel sums up their intention: ‘Light is central to the way we experience silver… Shade is a vital component of the artistic and visual impact of silver… surfaces rich with contrasts.’
From the bold threedimensional story telling of John Flaxman’s gilded Shield of Achilles, 10 years in the making and finally shown at the Coronation banquet of George IV, to Malcolm Appleby’s subtle allusion to MarieAntoinette on his Let them eat cake slice, each object is displayed in an unusually thoughtful manner. Viewers can get close and peer at the bases of objects, which have been tilted
This cup and cover by Charles Frederick Kandler is one of the older pieces in the exhibition, dating from 1736-37
beakers (2014) by Jane Short and Malcolm Appleby, are some of many items on display lent by the Goldsmiths Company Tectonic