Lot 303: A fine Elizabeth II silver and silver-gilt ''Round Handle'' pattern flatware service for eleven, Stuart Devlin, London, 1968-69
December 14, 2016
Philadelphia, PA, USALive Auction
A fine Elizabeth II silver and silver-gilt ''Round Handle'' pattern flatware service for eleven
Stuart Devlin, London, 1968-69
A set of hand-forged flatware comprising eleven each table forks and knives, fish forks and knives, dessert forks and knives, soup spoons, table spoons, iced tea spoons; twelve teaspoons; two each serving forks, ladles, fish servers; three pairs of salad serving spoons and forks. (123).
Weighable silver: 250 oz. t. (excluding table and dessert knives)
Collection of the late Laurence Harvey: Butterfield & Butterfield, San Francisco, California, March 11, 1987, Lot 957
Condition: Regular wear and light scratches throughout consistent with age and use.
Dates: Sampled at random; all with date mark "n," 1968-69.
Descriptions provided in both printed and on-line catalogue formats do not include condition reports. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging. Interested bidders are strongly encouraged to request a condition report on any lots upon which they intend to bid, prior to placing a bid. All transactions are governed by Freeman's Conditions of Sale.
Stuart Devlin (Australian/British, b. 1931) is one of the most important gold and silversmiths of the latter 20th century, his work defined by his focus on both traditional craftsmanship and modern design. Born in Geelong, Australia, he won his first scholarship to study design at the Gordon Institute of Technology at only thirteen years of age. He went on to earn an Art Diploma with highest honors from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology and further scholarships which took him, in 1958, to study at the Royal College of Art in London. He received dual diplomas in both Light Engineering and Design and Gold and Silversmithing, each with high accolades, before embarking on a two-year Harkness Fellowship at Columbia University in New York.
His approach to silversmithing, both academic and technical as well as highly creative and inventive, has rewarded Devlin with a career in high-profile public commissions, beginning in 1964 when he won a competition to design new coinage for Australia. Returning to London in 1965, he opened a workshop in Clerkenwell, an area best-known for its fine craftsmen in clockmaking and goldsmithing, to hone his reputation as a traditional craftsman of the highest order.
His important commissions include coins and medals for nearly forty countries worldwide, ceremonial works for numerous British universities, sporting trophies, and personal gifts for the British Royal Family. His popularity with the Royal Family, most notably Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, was reflected in his Appointment as Goldsmith and Jeweller to Her Majesty the Queen in 1982.
Devlin''s work has a distinctly modern aesthetic, experimenting with both deeply organic and sharply angular forms. He often juxtaposes naturalistic, applied surfaces with minimalist silhouettes, resulting in a uniquely 1960s appearance consciously evocative of the ''Space Age''. At the same time, his centuries-old construction methods, including hand-hammered plates, hand-raised goblets and bowls, lathe-turned stems, and hand-forged flatware, imbue each piece with a weighty and ancient honesty absent in more elaborate cast silver objects. His exhaustive academic practice and efforts to push the technical boundaries of metallurgy resulted in new tools and techniques which brought hand gold and silversmithing from the 19th into the 21st century, and allowed for the physical complexity of his innovative designs. This genius was key in cultivating his aesthetic, a style now emblematic of the technology- and progress-obsessed mid-century.
These nineteen lots of Stuart Devlin dining silver are wholly reflective of Malcolm Forbes'' eclectic and forward-thinking taste. Acquired by Mr. Forbes in the 1980s from several prestigious collections, they are remarkably cohesive as a single oeuvre. Each with date marks from the late 1960s, they are some of the earliest examples of these forms, production of which continued into the 1990s. Their simple, modernist shapes are contrasted with mottled surfaces that draw inspiration from tree bark, worms, volcanoes, and other natural elements. Representative of Devlin''s timeless designs, their beauty is almost without origin - they could be from deep within the earth, or from a future civilization.