A Woman’s Touch: The Masterpieces of Female Silversmiths

  • December 11, 2010 09:28

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Stunning George II Silver Epergne by Ann Craig and John Neville. Theirs was one of only a handful of female/male silversmithing partnerships to ever exist
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans

The contributions of women are one, if not the most, overlooked aspect in the history of silver craftsmanship. The natural elegance and refinement exhibited in the works created by the hand of female silversmiths set them apart from all others, and, in many cases, are considered the finest masterworks ever made.

It is imperative to remind ourselves that, until fairly recently, women had very little rights under the law in the industrialized world, and were at the mercy of the men in their lives in every respect, including profession (if one were even allowed a career). Most women who did acquire a business did so by inheriting them from their deceased husbands, acting as widows simply carrying on the family trade in which they had spent years working side by side with their husbands and were more than able to accept the responsibility. According to the records of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, there existed only sixty-three female silversmiths between the years of 1697 and the Victorian era. Many of them were willed the tools of the trade, as was the case with Hester Bateman. She not only carried on the legacy of the "House of Bateman" but also passed on her extensive knowledge to her children, who became famed silversmiths in their own right.

This tremendous and extremely rare silver soup tureen is one of only two oversize items ever created by Hester Bateman, the grande dame of English silversmiths.
M.S. Rau Antiques, New Orleans

A few of these silversmith pioneers entered partnerships with men to whom there was no blood or marital connection. For a mere fourteen women, there is no record of having a male relative in the silversmith craft. This is the case with the partnership of Ann Craig and John Neville, creators of this exceptional George II epergne. It is considered so superior for its type, that it was once part of the legendary Al-Tajir Collection of gold and silver. This outstanding work exhibits pierced decoration executed with the highest level of precision, not to mention an overall design that ranks it as an absolutely spectacular work of silver.

To view M.S. Rau Antiques' entire collection of important silver, click here.


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Beauty, Rarity, History: The M.S. Rau Blog

A New Orleans institution for over 100 years, M.S. Rau is among the premier fine art and antiques galleries in the world. Located in the heart of the French Quarter, our gallery overflows with incredible antiques by names including Tiffany & Co., Paul Revere and Fabergé. Our unparalleled selection of important, original paintings and sculpture spans the 16th through the 21st century, including legendary artists such as Brueghel, Monet and Rockwell, while our diverse selection of exquisite jewels, including rare colored diamonds, Kashmir sapphires and Burma rubies is without equal.

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