The Lequesne Coffee Pot
KOOPMAN RARE ART
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The Lequesne Coffee Pot Koopman Rare Art 53-64 Chancery Lane London WC2A 1QS
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Text and Research
Chiara Scotto Pasanisi dei Foscarini Editing and Design
Pierre-EdmĂŠ Babel, Victoria and Albert Museum, E.1905-1931
The Lequesne Coffee Pot A Highly Important George II Coffee Pot London, 1738 By Paul de Lamerie Height: 10 3/4in, (27.3 cm) Weight: 34oz 12dwt, (1,075g) The twisting pear shaped vessel rests on three fish scale and shell scrolling feet that connect to the bulbous lower body with foliate elements. The body presents three panels with putti holding onto coffee branches. The plain section of the surface with eagles’ heads and a cartouche engraved with a coat-of-arms within foliate scrolls and rocaille. The short spout emerges from a triumph of shells, coffee bushes, floral elements and a mask set against a panel of diaper work below a smaller one of fish scale surface. The waisted cover is hinged and presents alternated panels of fish scale and floral elements. Three shells adorn the finial shaped as a bulbous flame. The curved wooden handle is asymmetrically attached to the body by a gaping lion mask and a scrolling element. The arms are those of Lequesne impaling Knight. The Lequesne coffee pot is regarded by many as the finest example of Rococo English silver; its early date of execution places it as a pioneering masterpiece generated in this country in the French goût.
Provenance: Sir John Lequesne Kt. (1687-1741), presumably then to his widow, Mary, Lady Lequesne, later Countess of Catherlough (d. 1795), possibly left as part of her plate to her goddaughter Miss Mary Rand of Hampton, Middlesex. John Gabbitas (1853-1940), Weston Lodge, Westonunder-Penyard, Herefordshire Mr.J. Gabbitas; Sotheby’s, London, 27 June 1929, lot 171. Mrs Anna Thomson Dodge (1871-1970). The late Mrs Anna Thompson Dodge; Christie’s London, 23 June 1971, lot 24. A European Collector; Christie’s, New York, 5 October 1983, lot 207. Private Collection Literature: A. Grimwade, Rococo Silver 1727-1765, London, 1974, p. 51, pl. 60A. G. Norman, ‘Silver Coffee Pot Fetches an Auction Record’, The Times, 7 October 1983, p. 16. M. Snodin, ed., Rococo: Art and Design in Hogarth’s England, London, 1984, .109 M. Clayton, Christie’s Review of the Season, 1984, p. 329, M. Clayton, Christie’s Pictorial History of English and American Silver, Oxford, 1985, p. 138, no. 721 G. Jackson-Stops, ed., The Treasure Houses of Britain, Yale, 1985, pp. 515 516 V. Brett, The Sotheby’s Directory of Silver, London, 1986, p. 177, no. 721 T. Schroder, The Gilbert Collection of Gold and Silver, Los Angeles, 1988, p. 233 The Glory of the Goldsmith, Magnificent Gold and Silver from the Al Tajir Collection, 1989, pp. 108109, no. 77 Paul de Lamerie, The Work of England’s Master Silversmith (1688-1751), London, 1990, p. 131. B. Carver Wees, English and Scottish Silver at the Sterling and Francine Clarke Art Institute, New York, 1997, p. 300
Paul de Lamerie Born in Holland, Paul de Lamerie was brought to London by his Huguenot parents in 1698 and was an apprentice to the most prestigious Huguenot silversmith, Pierre Platel for ten years from 1703 to 1713. Platel’s family had also fled as refugees to Flanders in 1685 and they arrived in England in 1688. His most recognizable pieces combined popular techniques, such as chasing, cut card work and casting with producing innovative designs for objects and thereby signalling a new era in British silver, the Rococo. The characteristics of this incredibly modern trend were fully exploited by his apprentice who soon outgrew his master. The young Paul de Lamerie learnt quickly and promptly established himself amongst the elite in this new revolutionary style, Rococo. His skill was instantly recognized as he affirmed himself as goldsmith to the King only three years after entering his first mark. De Lamerie’s early work showcases a crescendo of bold stylistic choices that introduced an unprecedented breeze of modernity into many aspects of the silver world, from decorative techniques to innovative trade choices. His early production appears to be very much borrowed from the sober and solid Queen Anne style that slowly sees the introduction of the Huguenot art of relieving shapes with the use of more delicate strap work, cut card and cast and applied elements of decoration, components directly inspired by the French Régence style, absorbed and cultivated by Huguenot makers.
His inventive qualities were accompanied by a somewhat rebellious disposition that saw him dodging duty marks and modifying his own mark on several occasions. In fact, he eluded the Goldsmiths’ Company’s services to hallmark his pieces and changed his mark arbitrarily. Regardless of his eccentric behaviour towards authority, he was widely respected. He was revered by the Goldsmiths’ Company, for which he acted as a Warden in 1743, 1746 and 1747. As Fallon recognizes in his short biography, “Paul belonged to a militia organization of some kind for, in 1736, he became a Captain and, from 1743 was a Major until his death.” The Court Books of the Company do in fact always refer to him as “Captain Delamerie”, proving the high regard in which he was held. In the year in which de Lamerie was commissioned the Lequesne coffee pot, his reputation must have reached a peak in his career. The records of the Goldsmiths’ Company for 1738 mention him as one of “6 or 7 gentlemen who have the best acquaintance with the members of the House of Parliament” that are chosen to appoint the Committee of the Company to petition for state reforms, a great acknowledgement of his value to the Company and the community in general. Three years later, in 1741, the Company itself commissions him to produce a large quantity of objects to implement the Company’s plate.
Pierre Platel, Pilgrim Bottle, Circa 1710. The Victoria & Albert Museum
Paul de Lamerie, The Walpole Inkstand. London, 1729. The Cahn Collection
A look at his will, conserved in the National Archives, sheds light on his novel approach to conducting business. Paul is very precise in leaving instructions to settle his affairs and indicates the guidelines to be followed after his death. Whilst he is still of “sound mind and memory” de Lamerie decides to instruct his executors “in a manner to prevent controversy or disputes”. After making sure that all his debts and funeral expenses are paid in full, he recommends that an inventory is compiled with the weight of all the remaining stock of plate and, once this list is complete, the finished objects are to be sold publicly at auction through Messer Langford, auctioneer of Covent Garden. The unfinished objects will be “boiled and burnished” and sold in the same manner. Apart from silver-related investigation, his will also offers a valuable insight into the daily life of any successful Georgian business owner. De Lamerie refers to the multiple leasehold properties he owns that are bequeathed to his executors. His family and close collaborators are generously looked after with considerable sums of money: his “kind and indulging daughter” Mary, who assisted her father during his illness, is bequeathed a sum of 500 pounds, his loyal bookkeeper, Mr Gryles, 40 guineas. Of particular interest is the mention of his journeyman Samuel Collins, who must have been a trusted and treasured assistant to him as he is rewarded with the sum of 20 pounds upon condition he personally takes care of finishing his remaining plate before it is sold. The name of James Schruder appears at the end of the will as the legal witness to the document. This person is amongst the shortlist of names that has been proposed in order to identify the modeller that worked with de Lamerie in the years of his peak activity.
The fact that he is chosen as the attestant of the document certainly gives an idea of the regard in which he was held by de Lamerie. It is known that his premises in Gerrard Street were also offering a variety of pieces of jewellery, another significant choice of diversifying his patrimony between real estate and precious metals. Another astute business skill was his ability to infiltrate the circles of his desired patrons in more informal environments. A curious manuscript is preserved in the London Metropolitan Archives, belonging to the mysterious ‘Honourable board of Loyal Brotherhood’ from 1735, whose description is summarized on the Archives’ data sheet as “This appears to have been a select betting club, new members referred to as 'nephews', being elected on the nomination of existing members… Bets were laid on any subject of topical or personal interest and were often concerned with parliamentary business; the stakes appear to have been in claret or other wine rather than money.” Right at the back of the binding, a piece of scrap paper is revealed to be a bill for the sum of seventyfour pounds charged by Paul de Lamerie for the supply of six large engraved and cased candlesticks with nozzles, and for the mending of an old bell. The fact that this bill looks very informal, noted down on the back of a gambling score sheet, suggests that the Captain was networking in order to bond with new potential clients.
Huguenots and Rococo in England The return of the English Court in 1660 after a period of exile on the continent resulted in strong demand in the 18th century for silver as decor in homes where many objects had previously been removed or lost during the civil war period of the Commonwealth. Silversmiths were kept extremely busy making bowls, cups, trays, spoons and other silverware for the table, referring to the styles they had adopted from France and Flanders. Precious metals such as silver were in short supply due to the many wars the king had to conduct, and for this reason, apart from functional domestic items such as jugs and tankards, which were usually in fairly high grade silver, many other pieces such as cups and bowls were often rather simple. Their main attraction consisted in etchings and decoration that were reminiscent of the trend that developed beyond the English Channel, i.e. the bold and heavy Baroque style. It is against this backdrop that the crucial and lasting influence of the Huguenot workmen lodges itself in English silver as Huguenot silversmiths and their descendants came as refugees to England in the 1680â€™s, during the persecution of Protestants under Louis XIV. The French economy and finances did not prosper under Louis XIV. The trading companies, the guilds, lost clients and wealth and the state factories and workshops, such as the Gobelins, only produced for a luxury and therefore very limited market. Due to the severity of their doctrine and the spite of the Roman church that they openly preached, Huguenots, Protestants of Calvinist tradition, were scarcely tolerated in Catholic Europe. In 1598, an edict produced by the forward-looking and progressive Henry IV, the Edict of Nantes, recognized their right to practice without persecution.
As his less illuminated successor Louis XIV came to the throne, the edict was revoked as the king perceived its tolerance and promotion of civil concord as a threat to his position and was persuaded that the kingdom should be Catholic. All forms of Protestantism were condemned and death was prescribed for those who broke the law. Following the decree, there was an attempt by the French government to close the frontiers in an effort to prevent the exodus and force the remaining Huguenots to convert but, even after such measures, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots managed to flee the country. The exodus of Huguenots from France caused a dramatic drain of skilled labourers from which the French kingdom did not fully recover for many years. Many of those who emigrated were tradesmen, labourers and industrial workers and, with their departure, France's economy worsened. Many Huguenots were socially positioned between the educated aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. They comprised merchants as well as highly specialised artisans. By revoking the Edict of Nantes in 1685, the Sun King unknowingly turned London into one of the most important centre for silver production for a century and more. Most of the artisans who took refuge in London came from France and they brought with them valuable and beautiful designs that fitted with the English taste. They were also accustomed to working in the grander style that the lavish French court demanded and therefore used heavier quantities of metal, much more elaborate casting and specialized techniques to mount ornaments. Huguenot craftsmen possessed a wonderful ability when it came to chasing and engraving and created incredibly minute and intricate decorations in their works.
Wiiliam Hogarth, Noon, The Four Times of Day, 1738 The British Museum 1868,0822.1547
The French Fashion In Decorative Arts And Silver And Its Impact In England The French influence was strong across the board. At the time that Louis XIV decided to enlarge and renovate Versailles he also had it built as catalogue to demonstrate to other European countries the magnificence and the opulence that local manufacture could produce. The impact of the Palace of Versailles was so prevalent throughout Europe that many patrons of the arts turned to French architecture and lifestyle in general. Artists had to complete their training by studying French proportions and sources of inspiration for the magnificent French Baroque style. The Rococo trend followed during the reign of Louis XV and it was once again inevitable that French taste became universally recognized and appreciated. Charles II became familiar with the French court during his exile and, upon his restoration, he influenced the court and manufacturers back in England. As discussed earlier, the arrival of the Huguenots facilitated this process. They took inspiration from their compatriots like the multifaceted designer Daniel Marot who published and spread designs Ă la maniĂ¨re de la France. Therefore it is not surprising that standardized production and repetitious design prospered. Having fled his native France in 1685 and bringing with him his mastery of the Louis XIV style, Daniel Marot was one of the Huguenots destined to dominate taste in England. Even though he specialized in interior decoration, his skill and precision brought him to produce designs for a wide range of complements such as upholstery, ceilings, decorative objects and silverware.
Juste Aurele Meissonier, Bronze & Ormolu Candlesticks. Paris, circa 1730
The French court was constantly reinventing its taste and thus the opulent and decadent splendours of the Baroque were succeeded by the emergence of new forms and decoration. In 1720, Meissonier produces and distributes in France sketches for candlestick designs introducing what is considered the first manifestation of the Rococo style in decorative objects. The new Rococo style quickly spread to all fields of art, from paintings to furniture, porcelain, silver and even architecture, as a reaction to the excessive formality of the Baroque. The main principle behind it is movement which is central to the fascination that Rococo continues to exert even nowadays. Fantastical ornaments, often inspired by the western idea of exotic countries such as China or Turkey, make their appearance on designs, whimsical flora and grotesque anthropomorphic animals succeed one another capriciously in a scenario of suggestive ruins animated by the alternation of convex and concave spaces.
Daniel Marot, Second Livre dâ€™Orlogeries, Circa 1706. The Victoria & Albert Museum
This constant turnover of volume is the crucial characteristic of the new French goût: the observing eye is endlessly challenged in its rational understanding of proportions by objects that are conceived to provoke a romantic sense of confusion and dream-like atmospheres, without renouncing the grandeur and theatrical scale of the Baroque style that preceded. Its affirmation in England is visible in numerous sources. A significant one is the official portrait of King George II painted by Charles Philips in 1740. The painter, presumably following the sitter’s indications, portrays the king proudly standing next to a very boldly Rococo element, a chair that follows the design of the much-copied Italian designer Gaetano Brunetti, whose designs circulated in Europe spreading the continental goût.
Charles Philips, George II in The Library of St James’ Palace, 1740. Marble Hill House. Historic England Archive
The new genre of picturesque reached London silver makers and designers in the mid 1730’s. This style was embodied by the second generation of Huguenot immigrant goldsmiths such as Paul Crespin and Paul de Lamerie, and they almost immediately inspired British silversmiths like George Wickes. As always, it must be kept in mind that stylistic and aesthetic changes do not take place in a uniform manner, and the production of silver plate tends to follow and represent le bongoût of the patrons. The decorative register of makers stretches to adapt to appropriate stylistic solutions encompassing a great and interesting variety. The most important thing to bear in mind when assessing the way in which patrons helped the spread of trends is that at this time, in contrast to the situation in France, where patronage came mainly from members of the court, England already had a well-established middle class and landed gentry that could afford small commissions too. Inventories from silversmiths provide evidence of a common pattern of purchasing plate amongst the increasingly wealthy middle class. Buyers proceeded with the enlargement of their collections as funds allowed and usually dealt with more than one silversmith. Some Englishmen ordered their plate directly from Parisian makers and London artisans also copied French pieces in English collections.
Apart from personal taste and fashion, the 1713 AngloFrench Trade Treaty came into play and made it more difficult to export goods. It was clearly inevitable that an Anglo-French style would be developed both by the second and third generation of Huguenots and by British silver makers themselves. As Huguenot silversmiths migrated from France to England they brought strong stylistic and qualitative innovations. The most important silversmiths, who dominated the scene and the market, were able to do so by intermarrying and taking one another’s apprentices and journeymen, making sure their production’s standards remained cohesive to the taste of international patrons. Both Paul de Lamerie and Paul Crespin had the favour not only of the English nobility and court, but also Russian and Portuguese. The quality of their goods was so high that local silversmiths tried to prevent them from registering their marks with the Goldsmiths’ Company, hindering them in their ability to spread their name and build their reputation. The first Huguenot to be allowed to enter his mark at the Goldsmiths’ Company was Pierre Harache in 1683. Before him, many others had to work under the sponsorship of British silversmiths, unable as they were to register their own mark.
The Lequesne Coffee Pot The Lequesne coffee pot is recognized as one of the most significant Rococo pieces of silver in the world. The complexity of its execution coincides with the fame of its prestigious maker and its function also contributes to the creation of its whimsical aura. Its pear-shaped body was a new inspiration at that time as the majority of English coffee pots in the 1730’s continued to follow the traditional plain tapering cylindrical form of Queen Anne’s derivation. It is makers of French descent who introduce early pearshaped examples, possibly due to the fact that coffee was a popular beverage and entertainment ritual in France. The harmony between its minute proportions and its overall grandiosity is aided by the alternation of elaborate chasing and plain tracts of surface that result in a composition that is filled with details and incessant movement but maintains a clean elegance and a regular rhythm at the same time. Every element in the vessel is engaged in a continuous movement that immerses the eye in an exhausting yet fascinating fantasy. De Lamerie’s contemporaries described his work as being characterised by “curious ornaments” that are in fact the expression of the highest Rococo influence in the country.
The naturalistic elements of the decoration use the registry of the organic world mixed with mythological elements in the form of the lion’s head that rises on the handle and the putti that are immersed in the naturalistic yet capricious landscape backdrop. The incredible variety of his sources and inspirations is visible in this coffee pot as the observer’s eye rests on its details. The curiosity for the organic animal and natural world, typical of the 18th century, suddenly disappears to leave room for clusters of lush flowers, which seem almost adopted from the vocabulary of Della Robbia, referencing the Renaissance period. Some of the small panels that compartmentalise the decoration are, instead, of exotic inspiration, as they present a diaper pattern, a typical Rococo decorative element, inspired by chinoiserie and recalling the western fascination for the evocative oriental decorative schemes that often display this pattern on their lacquer works. A bold marine theme also characterises the piece, with the appearance of numerous elements in the shape of shells. It is interesting to compare this piece to the rest of the pieces made by de Lamerie in the same period, in order to emphasise the theatricality and dramatic nature of the Lequesne coffee pot, as the outstanding characteristic of de Lamerie’s style lies in his ability to evolve his registry to encompass his patrons’ tastes as well as the evolution of trends and markets.
The essence of movement and unexpected evolution that defines Rococo, finds the ideal medium in silver. The malleable qualities of the metal combine with its rich preciousness generating an infinite range of stylistic possibilities for the silversmiths who were experienced enough to be commissioned items in the new style. Paul de Lamerie excels in designing pieces to catch the light and to shine from all angles, striking his patrons with goldsmith-like perfectionist effort. The stylistic vocabulary used in the Lequesne coffee pot is also extremely appropriate to its function, as coffee drinking in those years was a ritual surrounded by a halo of refined magnificence. The curious flaming finial that surmounts the coffee pot’s cover is a reference to the natural element of fire, evoking the alchemy that surrounded the preparation of the exotic and sophisticated drink. As an example of the adaptable chameleonic talent that characterised the production of Paul de Lamerie, this coffee pot can be observed in comparison to another piece that possibly was created by him on the same occasion. The 1736-37 kettle in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum (Gilbert Collection, 675:1 to 4-2008) was apparently commissioned by Lady Lequesne in the same period as the coffee pot, to progressively build a rich service. Even though it presents some similar elements, the style of the ornaments draws from a different decorative vocabulary. Whilst the putti on the coffee pot appear to be completely immersed in the naturalistic sceneries of the panels, those on the kettle timidly emerge from a plain background that makes their sudden appearance so abstract it almost refers to the registry of medieval gold background paintings, where cherubs and figures seemed to be suspended in an ethereal background.
Paul de Lamerie, London, 1736-7. The Gilbert Collection. Victoria & Albert Museum
The attitude of the coffee pot putti is quite solemn and dignified, making them the dominant feature of the object. The other ones, on the contrary, are peeking discreetly at the observer, in a playful and childish manner. It has to be said that in the case of silver objects, the tendency in the majority of cases was to adopt a style that was appropriate to the function and, coffee being a more exotic product, it might have been that this influenced the choice of adopting such a strikingly rich and eccentric design. The elements of exoticism that are indeed present in the kettle in the form of leaves of sugar cane, tobacco sprays (referring to Sir Lequesne’s commerces) and shells (referring to his naval commerce perhaps), adorn the cartouche with the coat of arms in a discreet manner. In the coffee pot, on the contrary, it is the function of the vessel that must adapt to its unapologetic decoration. Interestingly enough the same characteristics are visible in some of the most iconic pieces de Lamerie produced during the peak years of his activity. The Goldsmiths’ Company side dish and ewer, hallmarked in 1741, are certainly the highlights of the Company’s collection of plate, weighting an impressive 17.8 kilos. Once again, even though the pieces were conceived together, they present quite different stylistic choices. Whilst the dish is conceived in a more controlled and rational regence style, with small panels that compartmentalise the decoration presenting both chinoiserie- inspired diaper pattern as well as scenes within oval cartouches depicting putti impersonating the four elements, inspired by Renaissance emblems like those illustrated by Cesare Ripa, the ewer is a triumph of the Rococo naturalism and devotion to movement and organicity, with marine and fluid details.
Paul de Lamerie, The Maynard Dish. London, 1736. The Cahn Collection.
Going back to the broad variety of stylistic registry that is embraced by de Lamerie’s production, the reclamation of Baroque grandiosity also occupies a significant role. The Maynard dish of 1736, currently in the Cahn Collection, as an example, displays a style of decoration that is more grand and opulent in comparison with the Rococo that flourished in the rest of his works. The Fire, Earth and Air putti in the rich border that frames the arms of Maynard at the centre of the dish, possess a strong physical presence that dominate, together with the marine element, the four corners. Although contained within the outskirt of the border, these elements are not confined within reserves or cartouches but spring out impertinently from the matted background and its organically swirled edges that are almost of auricular inspiration. These details are accompanied by the same sharpness of details and grim-faced eagles’ heads that will make their appearance on the Lequesne coffee pot suggesting a common creation by the anonymous master who worked as a chaser and possibly modeller for de Lamerie on his most complex and imposing pieces, referred to as the “Maynard Master”.
The Patron and Family The choice of commissioning de Lamerie with such a magnificent piece goes beyond the incredible reputation he was building for himself in the City at the time. In electing fellow refugee Paul as the maker of the piece that was destined to raise him to even higher levels of fame, the patron, Sir John Lequesne, also found a way to pay homage to his tormented Huguenot heritage. The Lequesne family were in fact members of the Huguenot minority that fled France because of the persecution. Natives of the town of Rouen, and active there as successful merchants, the family saw their patriarch, Pierre Le Quesne (1642-1700), imprisoned and eventually killed by a disease he contracted whilst incarcerated. Historical chronicles depict him as a martyr of the faith, apparently his dead body was treated obscenely and his family was looted of any property. He managed to protect his two sons by sending them abroad, placing them under the protection of a Spanish merchant who taught them the secrets of the trade and supported their successful carriers as both became extremely successful merchants trading very profitable exotic goods, such as sugar and tobacco, with the West Indies. Over time, he affirmed himself as a prominent figure within London society as his business acumen and wit lead him to fulfil honorary positions within the City. He was appointed an alderman of the Broad Street ward of the City of London in 1735 and the following year was appointed Master of the Grocers’ Company. As alderman of the City of London he formed part of the Lord Mayor’s delegation to the Court in 1737 to congratulate King George II on his arrival in London from Hanover and was knighted by the King on that occasion. In the following years Sir John was appointed a Director of the Bank of England and also served as Sheriff of the City of London. In 1738 Sir John Lequesne married Miss Knight of Hants, the descendant of a wealthy family who brought him the conspicuous dowry of £20,000. It is in this year that the Lequesne coffee pot is marked by de Lamerie and it has been suggested the coffee pot was a wedding present or commissioned to mark the event.
Engraved Coat-of-Arms of Lequesne impaling Knight
Sir John died in 1741 and was buried in St. Peter le Poer, the same church in which he was married and his daughter baptised and that functioned as a popular gathering place for the Huguenot community in London, of which Sir Lequesne was an active member, being involved in charity activities and public appointments to support the cause of his fellows refugees. Unfortunately the circumstances surrounding the location of the coffee pot remain untraceable from the death of Sir John in 1741 up until its reappearance at auction in 1929. Presumably the items commissioned on the occasion of their marriage constituted the nucleus of the family’s collection and the items of plate remained with the descendants of the family for a fairly long time, Mary Lequesne being a very wealthy woman herself, even before inheriting her husband’s patrimony.
Consumption of Coffee The second half of the 17th century sees the spread in Europe of new hot drinks: tea, coffee and chocolate. Their preparation and consumption quickly became associated with the social rank of their consumers, as the price of such ingredients was prohibitive for some. The idea of entertaining guests with the offer of a hot drink and cakes also lead to a progressive decrease in formality as it was considered a less engaging and formal alternative to a full meal invitation. Nevertheless, the elegance of the presentation was an essential component of the ritual and precious and elaborate pots and vessels quickly started to appear in the houses of the well off. These exotic drinks were surrounded by an aura of mystery and fancy, evocative of the alluring countries they were imported from and they duly engendered romantic ideas, associated with their consumption. A print in the collection of the British Museum (1877,0210.404) bears testimony to the almost alchemical consideration in which coffee was held
After: Francis Hayman, The Fortune Teller, or Casting the Coffee Grounds. circa 1743. The British Museum
as it illustrates an old gipsy fortune-teller performing the ritual of interpreting the residues of coffee beans in a porcelain vessel. Another relevant element is the detail of the coffee pot. The scene shows a gathering of highly fashionably dressed ladies in a garden, a silver coffee pot dominating the table, testifying the consideration in which the drink was held. Amongst the hierarchy of materials, silver was generally adopted for such vessels because of its high prestigious standing within the ranking of materials. The consumption of such drinks was not confined to private social gatherings, as the opening of assembly rooms and tea and coffee houses testifies. While tea and chocolate mainly encountered the taste of female consumers, coffee established itself as a strong beverage most popular with men. It is for this reason that public coffee houses soon gained an unofficial reputation for venues appropriate for important decision-making on politics and state affairs. The most notorious one was possibly the Lloydâ€™s Coffee House, associated as it was with its
clientele of merchants, traders and bankers. Coffee houses soon proliferated in England, the first one opening in Oxford in 1650, followed by the one that opened in London in 1652, run by Pasqua Rosee (currently the Jamaica Wine House), a servant or possibly valet to the businessman Daniel Edwards, who was an importer of various goods from Turkey, including coffee. Coffee houses were initially perceived by the public as dubious places, possibly because of the popular reprobation against the moral decadence of the political class and aristocracy, at first the main consumers of the drink. By the first half of the 18th century coffee had become extremely popular and it became common for it to be drunk the Turkish way, mixed with a substantial quantity of sugar that made it more dense and syruplike. It required pots with short and high spouts for more practical pouring, in order to make sure the grounds would not be poured with the liquid, such as the Lequesne example.
Endnotes 1 S. Hare, Paul de Lamerie: at the sign of the golden ball, An Exhibition of the Work of England's Master Silversmith, (London: The Goldsmiths’ Company, 1990), page 9 2 P. Fallon, Marks of London Goldsmiths and Silversmiths (c1697- 1837), (Newton Abbot: David & Charles Publishers, 1988) 3 Public Record Office, The National Archives, Manuscript number 11/789, Will of Paul de Lamerie, 8th August 1851 4 S. Hare, Paul de Lamerie: at the Sign of the Golden Ball, An Exhibition of the Work of England's Master Silversmith, (London: The Goldsmiths’ Company, 1990), page 13 5 London Metropolitan Archives, Manuscript number A/BLB/001, The Minute Book to the Honorable Board of Loyal Brotherhood, 1735 6 The restoration period was critical in England for the history of silver manufacture. At this time, the authorities started to take measures to contrast the common practice of shearing silver pieces from the edges of the coins in order to accumulate a sufficient quantity to fuse new coins without the state’s approval. This act of fraud was punishable by death, so it was preferable to sell the filings to complacent silversmiths. To prevent this fraud, in 1697, the authorities began checkering the edges of the coins and withdrew from circulation all those found to be shorn. At the same time it was decided to increase the title of silver from 925 to 958.4 fusing in the league a highest silver content so the plate was more consistent and valuable but still not too soft to be worked. This new style in the manufacture of silver was already known in France where the Huguenot silversmiths were using top-quality silver as they were used to providing plate mainly for courtiers. 7 Daniel Marot (1661–1752) was the Huguenot architect, furniture designer and engraver who spread the Late Baroque "Louis XIV" style. After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes his family left France for Holland where his designs influenced the taste of the court as he was employed by William III d’Orange. He subsequently followed the king to England, influencing the British court in the same manner.
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