Art Fund appeal and major grant help V&A acquire rare 18th-century silver

  • 3 May 2007

A rare 18th-century silver ewer and basin which once belonged to Britain's great military leader John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, has been acquired by the V&A, thanks to a major grant of £290,000 from The Art Fund.

Significant additional funding came from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and donations from trusts, foundations and private individuals. The total cost of the purchase was £840,000.

The ewer and basin - outstanding and rare examples of Louis XIV French silver - were offered to the V&A as a private treaty sale through Christie’s in March 2006, and the museum was given a deadline of April 2007 to raise the funds. The Art Fund originally offered a grant of £200,000, but in order to help the V&A meet the total amount required, it increased its grant to £290,000, incorporating the proceeds from an appeal launched by The Art Fund to its members, which raised £20,642.50.

The ewer and basin were crafted in Lille c.1711-12 by Elie Pacot (1657-1721), one of the greatest French goldsmiths of the era, for the Duke of Marlborough. They are of exceptional quality and in excellent condition, and as a great deal of French silver was melted down by royal command during the reigns of Louis XIV and XV, they count as rare survivors.

The ewer and basin are very significant additions to the V&A’s collection, as it had no French silver of this date or prestige in its permanent collection.

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