Sunday, April 6, 2014

Unusual Artifacts: The Parker Wine Fountain, 1719

The Victoria & Albert Museum

This famous piece of Britannia standard silver is most unusual.  A fountain with lid and tap, it takes the form of a baroque urn. The lid is surmounted by a crest in the form of a lion's head, further decorated with bands of gadrooned ornament and palmette and shell motifs in the style of the early Eighteenth Century.

The urn gracefully bows  out from the rim and is also gadrooned as flanking  lion's masks grasp the handles in their jaws.  The sides  of the urn are decorated with an applied coat of arms and supporters (that of Thomas Parker, 1st Earl Macclesfield), each surmounted by an earl's coronet. The tap depicts a dolphin's head and a handle in the form of a baroque bow is set beneath the applied coat of arms.

Hallmarked 1719, this is the work of Anthony Nelme who designed this masterpiece as part of a grand and colossal set of silver devoted only to serving wine--including also a massive cistern and cooler meant to rest on the floor by the sideboard holding the fountain.

Now, you might think that this fountain was meant to issue forth wine.  Its use, however, was to pour water used to rinse glasses between uses.  A footman would take a used glass, rinse it, fill it with wine cooled in the cooler and offer the glass to a new guest.

No comments: