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Work Items of silverware from George III of England's dinner service

Department of Decorative Arts: 18th century: neoclassicism

Deux huiliers

© 1993 RMN / Martine Beck-Coppola

Decorative Arts
18th century: neoclassicism

Author(s):
Muriel Barbier

The goldsmith Robert-Joseph Auguste (1723-1805) worked for a number of European courts. Many of his works are now lost. This set is a reminder of his prolific output. These pieces, stamped with the monogram of King George III of England (1738-1820), reflect the way meals were served in the eighteenth century. The detailed treatment of the neo-classical embellishments is softened by the grace of the figures modelled in the round. The set as a whole is an important testimony to Auguste's skill.

A grand eighteenth-century dinner service

The French style of serving favoured throughout the eighteenth century called for a number of sets of tableware - one each for the starters, the roast meats, and the desserts, as well as any number of intermediary courses. Each course thus had its own set of tableware - gold, silver, or porcelain. In addition, each course might consist of a variety of dishes, all served separately. The service belonging to George III includes everything required for a grand dinner. The Louvre holds twenty-three pieces from this service, including the oil and vinegar cruets, glass-coolers used to hold glasses which the guests would ask their own valets to fetch as and when required, tureens for serving meat hot, candelabras for lighting, mustard pots, dishes, and dish-covers to keep the food warm. All Robert-Joseph Auguste's later great dinner services have been lost. This is thus the final relic of the grand French tradition of elegant table service swept away by the Revolution.

An example of neo-classical goldsmithery

The twenty-three pieces of the service in the Louvre all share the same stylistic features. The trays on which the tureens stand are chased with fluting and ringed with a laurel torus. They consist of a flat silver tray with a ring of beading in the centre round the foot of the tureen. Similar decoration is found on the mustard pots, oil and vinegar cruets, and the tureens themselves. The tureen handles are in the shape of two cherubs kissing. These picturesque figures soften the rather austere neo-classical style. The glass-coolers and dish-covers likewise have a ring of beading round the base. The oil and vinegar cruets and mustard pots are decorated with rams' heads which soften the design in the same way as the cherubs on the tureens. The stems of the candelabras are in the shape of three antique female figures - a clear reference to the contemporary revival of interest in Greek and Roman art.

A design used by Robert-Joseph Auguste on several occasions

Robert-Joseph Auguste used the same design for other services made for other European courts, some earlier, some made at the same time as this service for George III. One of the services made for Catherine II of Russia (now in the Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg) includes a tureen made to the same design as those in George III's service. A service made for the Count of Creutz (Swedish Crown Collection) also shows marked similarities to these pieces. Robert-Joseph Auguste also made a tureen in this style for Louis XVI in 1783. A drawing for the design is still held in the archives of the National School for the Fine Arts in Paris (inventory number O 1273).

Bibliography

Jean-Pierre Babelon, Versailles et les tables royales en Europe, 1993, Éditions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, pp. 330-333.

Technical description

  • Robert-Joseph AUGUSTE (Mons 1723 - 1805)

    Deux huiliers

    1776 - 1777

    Service de George III d'Angleterre

  • Argent, cristal

    H: 39 cm; Diameter: 47.5 cm

  • Dation en paiement de droits de succession, 1975 , 1975

    OA 10602, OA 10603

  • Decorative Arts

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Additional information about the work

Engraved monogram: GIII. Hallmarks: maker: RJA, palm; town: Paris 1778-9 (crowned P) and 1780-1 (crowned R), Paris tax 1775-81 (crowned A) and 1781-83 (crowned A ???)