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Home > Auctions > 5th September 2017 > Medieval Important Paris-Marked Silver Bowl

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LOT 0539

GBP (£) 40,000 - 60,000
EUR (€) 47,360 - 71,030
USD ($) 51,070 - 76,600

1381-1405 AD
6 1/2" (244 grams, 16.5cm).

A broad silver bowl (coupe or hanap) with convex central dome, bearing an incised outline Lombardic letter 'M' near to the centre of the inner face, with a stamped mark to the outer face beneath the rim being a crowned fleur-de-lis (for Paris) and an oakleaf(?) maker's mark below; to the underside, incised 'M' with 'x' above; to the shoulder, a scratched inscription of seven characters.

CONDITION REPORT: [Click to show]

Property of a lady; acquired Bond Street, London Gallery, 1970s; formerly in a 19th century London collection. Accompanied by a research note from John Cherry; also with an Oxford Labs XRF test certificate (no.00650-2016MB) indicating composition as silver (95.3%), copper (2.6%), gold (1.1%), lead (0.6%) and tin (0.3%), with small traces of other elements.

See Cripps, Wilfred Joseph, Old French Plate, London, 1893, for general information; see Henwood, Philip, Les orfevres parisiens pendant le regne de Charles VI, 1380-1422, in Bulletin archaeologique du Comite des travaux historiques et scientifiques 15A, 1981, pp.85-180 for list of goldsmiths working in Paris; see Stratford, Jenny, The Bedford Inventories: The Worldly Goods of John Duke of Bedford Regent of France (1389-1435), London, 1993, no.A72 (dated 1434) for a similar piece.

The crowned fleur-de-lis hall mark for Paris was used 1379-1493 AD; date letters began to appear in 1461, placing this bowl's manufacture and marking likely before that date; the mark is known to appear on very few pieces surviving today; these include a chalice given by Charles VI to the monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai in 1411; two flasks in All Souls College, Oxford; a goblet from the Coëffort treasure and an unprovenanced goblet in the Louvre, Paris.

The oak-leaf maker's mark may refer to a goldsmith named Chesne or du Chesne; Colin Duchesne is described as 'nouvel orfevre' in Paris in 1381, while Guillaume Duchesne provided gold and silver objects for Louis de Anjou, duc d'Orleans (1377-1417) in 1394-1395. The simplicity of the bowl form suggests it is a vessel for drinking wine; the shape is similar to the hanap found in the treasure of Lessay in 1971 which, from the coins, was deposited in 1420 (see Paris artour 1400, no.103a and Dumas, Francoise, L'arget cache par Pierre Leclerc en 1420, Revue Numismatique, Series 6, XX, 1978, pp.137-137). The maker's mark suggests a likely date of 1381 or a little later, in 1394-1395 and it is probable that the careers of the two makers would have overlapped with Guillaume working for some years after 1395 thereore the most likely date would be 1381-1405 AD.

The Lombardic 'M' might well be the initial of the name of the owner, either a person or an institution; it could stand for the royal abbey of Maubuisson, or for a saint's name such as 'Mary' or 'Margaret', both popular in France at this time. A possible candidate could be Marie of Anjou (1404-1463), Queen to Charles VII and daughter of Louis II of Naples, she married Charles VII in 1422.

The bowl's weight (244.45 grams) equates approximately to 8 troy ounces (249.6 grams). French silver of 14th century date typically has a purity of 95% ('argent-le-roy') while English silver is 92%; the present bowl is composed of 95.3% fine silver according to the XRF test report.