An exceptionally rare and radically designed Liberty & Co Cymric silver sugar basin, hallmarked London 1899, date letter “d”. This is undoubtedly an early formative Archibald Knox design and this piece will appear in Dr Stephen Martin’s forthcoming third edition of his seminal work “Archibald Knox”.
More than this, it is one of Knox’s most complex and modern designs at this time. Until now this piece was only known by its design drawing held in the Silver Studios Archive at MODA (Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture, Middlesex University), reference SD 8182 and by its illustration in the c 1900 Cymric catalogue page 69 (see images) where it is described as a:
“Silver sugar basin [and tongs]. Price £8 8 shillings”
On the MODA design sketch, the piece is named “the Grouwal”. I believe this is a reference to the Norse settlement Gruvale from c 1150 on the banks of the the similarly named river Groval. The settlement is today identifiable as Grovehill Road, part of the town Beverley in Yorkshire.
The sugar basin’s design involves complex “folds” and “cuts” of silver to form a rectangular vessel with sharp pointed corners. I am pretty confident in saying that very little silver like this has been seen before or after 1900. I am sure it was both difficult and expensive to make which may explain its rarity.
The shape is classic early Knox. The design for a frame named Arraghon is held at MODA (SD 8755). Arragon (as it is now spelt) is a large estate on the Isle of Man and since the frame also exhibits Knox’s’ classic Celtic knot design we can be certain this is a Knox original drawing. The frame exhibits the same shapes and cuts as this basin. Additionally all four sides of the sugar basin’s body carry a classic early Knox motif, the stylized fruits being very similar to those seen on Knox’ famous two handled rose bowl in pewter model 0229, the leaves are a motif seen on his textile designs (also held at MODA).
The Cymric range was launched in May 1899, just one week prior to the start of the 1899 London assay year date letter “d”, which is carried by this vase. Nearly all later Liberty pieces carry Liberty’s Birmingham mark registered in late 1899. I have written about these early pieces before, notably A513 and and in my article “Origins of the Liberty Cymric range“.
Originally, according to the 1899 Cymric catalogue, these pieces were not highly polished. Like many of these early Liberty pieces it is a very good gauge of silver.
Asides London assay marks for 1899 the basin carries a number of scratch marks to the base. It also carries a small French import mark.
Maker: Liberty & Co
Designer: Archibald Knox (attrib)
Date : 1899
Marks: Ly & Co Liberty mark, London, date latter “d”
Material: Sterling silver
Size: 4.0 cm high, 13.0 cm long, 7.25cm max width
Weight : 238 grams, 8.4 oz
Photographs and description courtesy of The Peartree Collection.