Gifts Today magazine

Spotlight on silver

A landmark exhibition of the largest grouping of work by one of England’s
most famous silversmiths Paul Storr will take place in London in October

The first exhibition devoted to one of England's most famous silversmiths, Paul Storr (b.1771- d.1844) takes place in the galleries of leading silver dealers, Koopman Rare Art, on Chancery Lane, London from 13 to 31 October, 2015.
Entitled Art in Industry: The Work of Paul Storr, this landmark exhibition features a dazzling array of more than 200 examples of craftsmanship in silver and gold, the largest grouping of Storr silver ever shown. 

Paul Storr, universally recognized as the greatest silversmith of the Regency period, holds a special place in the history of English silver. The workshops he directed, first for the Royal Goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, and later on his own account, wrought some of the greatest silver of the first half of the nineteenth century. 

“Storr is a byword for quality in silver”, says Timo Koopman, director of Koopman Rare Art. “In the 21st century silver is regarded as a luxurious accessory to elegant living, whereas 200 years ago it was an absolute necessity and required a major capital investment. Silver was the ultimate status symbol, today’s equivalent of a private yacht, jet or top quality car.”

The works on display in the exhibition range in date from 1792, when Storr first set up his own workshop in London to when he retired in 1838. Although Storr died in 1844, his successor firm, which went by the name of Hunt & Roskell, continued into 1890s and a few examples of pieces from this late period of Storr’s outstanding legacy are also included.
Storr’s career spanned an important period in British history. It was a time of the industrial revolution and the expansion of the British Empire. Military campaigns, such as the Battle of Waterloo, this year celebrating its 200th anniversary, saw Britain emerge as the dominant power in Europe, with a demand for silver to commemorate such momentous events.
Added to which a more international outlook following the Congress of Vienna (1814-15) saw newly fashionable foods, changes in table settings, and above all the creation of great wealth for Britain resulting in a revolution in silverware, of which Storr was one of the leading exponents.

Christopher Hartop, an eminent silver scholar, who has written the associated book of the same name, says: “Storr’s amazing achievement was the sheer scale of his activity, and the ingenious way he merged creative talent and cutting-edge technology. Collectively his works offer a new perspective on the arts during the Regency period.”

“Storr was not a lonely craftsman working away at a bench, but a gifted entrepreneur with a flair for spotting the best artists, including celebrated painters and sculptors as well as designers, draughtsmen and modellers. Fine art and the ‘plastic arts’ were united as never before. In addition Storr’s use of innovative technology is breath-taking; it was the Microsoft of its day and meant that silver was available to a much wider client base”. 

With a workforce of more than 500 of the most talented silversmiths and related craftsmen, Storr’s output was prolific, and his diverse style encompassed the austerely plain to the lavishly ornate, as is clearly demonstrated from the pieces on show. 
Storr numbered among his clients not only British royalty and the aristocratic elite, but European noble families and prominent Americans. An example of one of Storr’s particularly extravagant masterpieces is a stunning tray with a wide border opulently decorated with figures and grape-laden vines, which was presented as a personal gift by the Prince Regent George III to General Thomas Garth in 1816. Another highlight of the exhibition is a magnificent and grandiose pair of candelabra centrepieces, ordered as part of an extensive service for 180 persons, by one of the richest men in Portugal, Henrique Teixera de Sampaio in 1822-23. 

Storr’s silver was, and still is, to be found in all the major stately homes across the United Kingdom. Included in the exhibition are, for example a pair of entrée dishes from Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, a pair of unusual wine coolers commissioned as part of an extensive service for one of the wealthiest men in Wales, George Dawkins Pennant for his estate Penryhn Castle, and a set of silver dinner plates which was originally commissioned for Clandon in West Sussex, the National Trust property recently severely damaged by fire. 

Also of note is the magnificent Gladstone dinner service, which was presented to Sir John Gladstone in 1824 by the grateful citizens of Liverpool for the part he played in developing the city’s growth and prosperity. Sir John Gladstone was father of the four times Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. Complete dinner services from any period in English history are extremely rare and this is the only service by Storr to survive more or less complete.

Many of the items in the exhibition such as cake baskets, tea trays and urns, sugar vases, toasted cheese dishes make reference to particular aspects of dining etiquette of the period. Not only food, wine too was served quite differently in the Regency period and the stunning wine coolers and coasters on show all demonstrate this.

The Duke of Wellington was another of Storr’s major patrons and he, in particular, recognised the important diplomatic role that silver played. In 1814 he commissioned silver services from Paul Storr for British Embassies so that ambassadors could entertain in a grand style, which reflected Britain’s glory and importance as a major power. Not only do several British embassies still use Storr silver, it continues to grace the most important dining tables around the world from London’s Buckingham Palace to the White House in Washington.

Lewis Smith, managing director of Koopman Rare Art, adds: “Paul Storr is venerated as much in the United States as he is in Europe. In the post-war period Storr silver was collected by the likes of Arthur Gilbert and Morrie Moss, and there are significant groupings of Paul Storr silver in, for example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and the Portland Museum of Art in Philadelphia.” 
“In addition important collections of Storr’s work have also recently been formed in the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific region. We are delighted that so many collectors have agreed to loan items to the exhibition”.

Exhibition Details:
Tuesday, October 13 to Saturday, October 31, 2015
Monday to Friday 10:00am to 5:00pm
Saturdays from 10:00am until 1:00pm
Admission Free

Koopman Rare Art
53-64 Chancery Lane,
London WC2A 1QS
Tel: 0207 242 7624

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