Cassel silver collection
17 June to 13 August 2006 (CLOSED)
A superb collection of important silver, recently acquired for the nation by a consortium of major museums, is on display at the Museum of London from 17 June - 13 August.
The eleven pieces come from the private collection of the immensely rich Edwardian financier Sir Ernest Cassel. They date from 1496 to 1799 and include a silver-gilt ewer and basin, salts, covered cups, a tankard and a unique pair of chocolate cups made from the gold of melted down mourning rings.
Museum of London is the only place in London they are being displayed together and this is the last chance see them together as a group.
The Cassel Silver collection was assembled by Sir Ernest Cassel (1852-1921), a German immigrant who arrived in England at the age of 17 with, it is said, only a bag of clothes and a violin. He made a fortune as merchant banker and became the most powerful European financier of his generation. He was a friend and financial adviser to the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, and his position at the centre of the royal circle earned him the nickname ‘Windsor Cassel’.
As an art collector, Cassel ranks with other great plutocrats of Edwardian England such as Alfred Beit and Sir Julius Wernher. An important part of his renowned collection in Park Lane, alongside portraits by Van Dyck and Reynolds, was his early English silver. No museum in the UK was in a position to purchase the whole group, so eight major museums formed a consortium to purchase pieces according to the special relevance each piece had for them.
All the pieces were made in London by leading goldsmiths. Museum of London has acquired the Fauconberg porringer, a rare piece of Commonwealth silver that once belonged to Lord Fauconberg, a career civil servant who married Oliver Cromwell’s daughter, Mary. The tiny Palmerston gold chocolate cups are a poignant addition to the British Museum’s documentary gold plate and collection of mourning rings. The Ashmolean is adding a magnificent Elizabethan ewer and basin to its world-class collection of English table plate.
The earliest of the 11 pieces, an extremely rare silver-gilt beaker, goes to the V&A, while Temple Newsam and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery have each bought examples of that uniquely English design - the steeple cup - named after the pointed finials that top their covers. The Fitzwilliam has acquired a lavishly decorated ginger jar while a covered tankard is going to the National Museum of Wales.
Two very different salts complete the collection - the only known survival of a double bell-shaped Elizabethan salt of a type once used on the tables of Oxford colleges, goes to the Ashmolean, while the Geffrye Museum will have its late 16th century domestic room setting enriched by a rare survival – a simple but very beautiful domestic salt of a type commonly used by trades people.
This magnificent collection was acquired with the help of grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the National Art Collections Fund the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, museum friends’ organisations and other benefactors.