The Sterling Quality

Four Centuries of Silver

Jean-Jacques Boileau (att. to), Digby Scott and Benjamin Smith Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, Sauce Boat on Stand, 1806.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery has one of the finest holdings of silver in Canada, and this exhibition shows why. It celebrates the upcoming publication of Focus Five, The Sterling Quality: British and Canadian Silver 18th-20th Century, the latest in the WAG's series of publications detailing the extensive holdings of its decorative arts collection. This current offering explores the treasures of British and Canadian silver as researched and documented by Curator Emerita Kathleen Campbell.

The WAG holds over 500 works in silver, concentrating on British and Canadian production. Though not a comprehensive survey of silver making in those countries, it contains pieces of immense importance and is indicative of the diverse objects and styles popular over some three hundred years. Since the church was an early patron of local silversmiths, eclesiastic plate is well represented, particularly in the Canadian collection. The Ciborium by Robert Cruikshank, dated c.1800, is a fine example of a simplified, refined, and very elegant style of plate with beautiful proportions and profile.

Domestic silver is much in evidence in the WAG's collection. As leading silver authority Philippa Glanville writes, "Whether intended for worship, for dining, or as a spectacle, silver has always played a central role in English society." Undeniably, silver was (and still is) associated with class and social standing. Display and ownership indicated wealth and achievement. This pride of ownership is obvious in the magnificent pair of Regency sauceboats produced by Digby Scott and Benjamin Smith for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell (1804). The WAG sauceboats are identical to those in the Grand Service to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales (now om yjr collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II), with the exception that they carry the crest, coronet, and motto of Thomas Douglas, 5th Earl of Selkirk (1771-1820).

Robert Cruickshank, Ciborium, c. 1800.


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