Chapter 7. TUDOR PLATE

Table of Contents


Great displays of plate-bosses to collectors- Domestic silver.

IT is difficult to draw any hard lines of division between the different periods during which plate-ecclesiastical and domestic-assumed definite and distinct designs and forms. As it has been shown in previous chapters that the production of ecclesiastical plate was the outcome of customs and usages founded upon very early practices ; it changed little, for the same vessels with few exceptions were in use in the cathedrals, churches and colleges in this and other countries for centuries. It was only after the Reformation that any marked difference was observable in the vessels used in the performance of religious rites and those used for domestic purposes. The darkness of the Middle Ages prevented any great change taking place either in Britain or on the Continent of Europe. The division between rich and poor was very marked, and it was not until the Middle Ages had almost gone, and the newer period which for the purpose of distinction we call Medioeval, although in reality reaching towards the close of the sixteenth century, was there much difference in the habits and customs of the people necessitating the production of new patterns and shapes of plate. It was by a slow process of evolution that the Middle classes came into being, and with the Tudor monarchs on the throne England began to be more enlightened and

Silver Punch Bowl with Chinese Decorations

fig23 Silver Punch Bowl with Chinese Decorations DATED 1688.

Irish Potato Ring

fig 24 IRISH POTATO-RING. 1774

Silver Candlestick


Silver Snuffers with Stand

fig26 Silver Snuffers with Stand 1768

the traditions of the Dark Ages faded, and better conditions of trade and commerce enriched a class which until then had been unknown. Merchant princes grew wealthy, and smaller traders furnished their dwellings with comfortable surroundings, if not on a lavish scale. We have had abundant evidence that wars have had a marked influence upon trade, and upon changes that take place from time to time in the habits of the people and the f, way in which they live and accommodate themselves to new surroundings. This has often been observable in the history of this country. From time to time wars have brought to an abrupt end all the progress which has gone on for years, and very often they have thrown the country devastated back for several generations. The country waging war, although not actually invaded, has sometimes suffered also, and when not victorious possibly to a greater degree than the country its armies have destroyed. At the period about which we are writing-the late Medi2eval or Tudor England-there had been such an upheaval ; and a new start had been made, for the Wars of the Roses ceased, and then Peace came over the devastated fields of Britain. Rural England revived when the crown of Richard III was placed upon the head of Henry Tudor. It was during the reign of Henry VII that the revival of trade began again, it was stimulated by the patronage and support of the King who, it is said, especially favoured the silversmiths. The work of the craftsmen was greatly benefitted by the support of clever artists who put their great talents to commercial uses. Even Holbein in his intervals of leisure when he was painting the portraits of famous men and women designed beautiful silver cups and some jewellery ; these things, fashioned according to his taste, harmonised with the then prevailing surroundings. History records that the silversmiths were well pleased with Holbein's designs and in many instances copied them faithfully, thus creating a new style in silver-smith's art, one which became associated with the period. The Renaissance of art was then in full swing and enamelling had made great strides. It was in the sixteenth century that Cellini worked, and in addition to the beautiful jewellery and other things he modelled and designed that famous artist produced chalices, crosses, altar pieces ; relic cases and shrines. His designs too, were accepted by more advanced silversmiths who wrought wonderful pieces for church purposes, civic and presentation plate.