Mid Eighteenth Century English Rococo Silver, its Social Context and the Adventures of its Owners and Makers


6 May 2020

Ralph Hoyle

Ralph Hoyle was a schoolboy member of the Wine Label Circle, a society devoted to the study of silver decanter labels, and went on to be its President. He is a long standing member of the Silver Society. He has given talks to the Art Fund, Sheffield Assay Office, American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, Historic Houses and small charity raising events. He brings pieces from his own collection for the audience to handle and examine while he is discussing design, social context and makes revelations about the original owners he has identified from the heraldry.

Ralph’s interest is mid eighteenth century English Rococo silver. He brings with him the pieces he is going to talk about for the listeners to handle and examine, together with a comprehensive collection of power point images, with close ups of features of interest. The Huguenot influence on this most decorative period is discussed, where new silversmithing techniques fused with new designs; together with methods of manufacture, interpreting the engraved heraldry of the items, and the social context.

He makes the talk entertaining as well as informative by taking the audience on a journey to uncover the original owners by tracing the heraldry, shows portraits of them, and reveals some of the life story associated with them; fabulously wealthy aristocrats and middling sorts, they variously had a stint in the Tower of London, had tragic family circumstances, had their descendents gamble away their estates, found their wife in a bed she should certainly not have been in, or were dragged to their death in an overturned carriage… Knowing the exploits of these original owners of these pieces adds considerably to their interest and brings another dimension to the handling.



Caption: Silver cake basket and stand, by Paul de Lamerie &Paul Storr (Creative Commons)