Un­tar­nished rep­u­ta­tions

The pair­ing of an­tique and con­tem­po­rary sil­ver ob­jects throws up il­lu­mi­nat­ing re­la­tion­ships and con­trasts, says Philippa Glanville

Country Life Every Week - - Exhibition -

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

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