After the find – during the course of my routine business – of not one but two rare Georgian silver candlesticks, I decided to find out more about them. With the consent of the Wiltshire family, who owned them, I discovered that they were made in around 1770 by Thomas Heming, who had been principal goldsmith to King George III between 1760 and 1782. My research showed that they are two of possibly only six made by the illustrious 18th century goldsmith.
In the 18th century, the pleasures of the table reached new gastronomic heights with the discovery of different and exotic foods and the creation of new recipes. Visually the table became more exciting and elaborate with tureens, sauceboats and centrepieces in silver and gold to showcase the new recipes. The objects used to lay a table in the 18th century spoke volumes about the host’s standing in society, so four or maybe even all six candlesticks would have stood on a long elaborately dressed dining table at a sumptuous dinner party.
The design of the silver candlesticks by the maker, Thomas Heming, is fascinating and ornate. They are packed with symbolism around love and fertility.
The matching pair of candlesticks are raised on a triangular Rococo-style base cast and chased with foliage and trailing husk scrolls, both engraved with the same Coat of Arms. The stem of each candlestick is formed as a partially robed female figure of Flora, the festive goddess of fertility, flowers and Spring. Flora has one arm raised and supporting the vase-shaped sconce and detachable nozzle, the sconce cast and chased with foliage, the nozzle in the form of a leaf. She is depicted as a caryatid enslaved by love, bearing a cornucopia, which forms the upper stem and supports the drip pan and socket.
The candlesticks, which stand 14¼in (36cm) high and weigh 93oz (2897gr), would have been commissioned from Thomas Heming for Lord Arundell’s new country house, Wardour Castle, near Tisbury, Wiltshire, which was being built to the design of the architect, James Paine.
The design is so elaborate and sophisticated that the owners, who wish to remain anonymous, will not be selling them, but would like to offer them on a ‘long loan’ to a relevant museum to be displayed and enjoyed in public. The candlesticks are deemed to be of historical importance in the history of silver, as well as in the history of the design in the time of King George III.
Having originally valued the single candlestick at up to £15,000, I am sure that the pair today could be worth up to £80,000 at auction with an insurance value of around £250,000.
These candlesticks are not only a once-in-a-lifetime find, they speak about all that I hold true. When I value items, I charge for my time, not to make a fast buck by withholding the ‘true value’ of items. It was very clear from my interaction with this family that they had no idea how special their candlesticks were and I feel privileged to have been able to shine a light on that.