Spectacular British Silver from the Collection of Millicent Rogers

Millicent Rogers in her home in New York City, "Vogue" (March 1945). Image courtesy Charlton Hall.

Socialite, heiress, and fashion icon Millicent Rogers left her mark on the art world through an extensive collection of artifacts, furniture, fine art, books, and decorative arts.

When an early childhood illness left her bedridden for an extended period, Rogers spent her time learning languages, painting, and reading about faraway lands. “I think her collecting started then. She couldn’t travel so she traveled through her books,” says Kinga Bender, Fine & Decorative Art Director at Charlton Hall.

The granddaughter of one of the founding partners of Standard Oil, Millicent Rogers was able to pursue her passion for travel and fashion from an early age. “She always immersed herself in the culture where she was…She traveled all over the place because she read about all these things and she wanted to go see all these places,” says Bender. Among the locales Rogers called home during her lifetime are New York, Virginia, Beverly Hills, New Mexico, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Jamaica, and Russia.

In the 1920s, pictures of Rogers were regularly seen in “Vogue” and “Harper’s Bazaar.” Her style also served as inspiration for the first generation of Mattel Barbie dolls created in the 1950s. Rogers was a client of designers like Charles James and Elsa Schiaparelli, and remains a source of inspiration for many fashion designers today. Pieces from her wardrobe form the foundation of the collection at the Met’s Costume Institute.

The entryway of Turtle Walk, Millicent Rogers’ home in New Mexico.

Rogers was also a prolific collector of art and antiques. She is known as a passionate advocate for Native American civil rights and filled Turtle Walk, her home in Taos, New Mexico, with Native American design, jewelry, art, and artifacts. “She acquired things that she saw beauty in and it was not just objects, it was art, flowers, clothing, jewelry,” says Bender. “She saw beauty in everything and she was very influenced by where she lived.”

In addition to her proclivity toward Southwestern and Native American design, Rogers collected significant examples of decorative art from the United States and abroad. Bender says, “It’s extraordinary how much reach she has and in how many different fields…It’s interesting how integral she is in all aspects of collecting.”

Her silver collection, which Charlton Hall will auction along with the rest of the contents of Turtle Walk on February 22nd and 23rd, showcases the breadth and depth of Rogers’ collecting habits. Along with famous American makers like Tiffany & Co., Gorham, and Kirk & Son, Rogers possessed many fine 18th and 19th century pieces from Britain.

Our editors delved deeper into the collection of Millicent Rogers to uncover some of her most exceptional pieces of British silver. Read on to learn more.

Georgian Era, 1714 – 1830

The Georgian designation extends to items created during the reigns of George I, George II, and George III. At this time, the Gothic Revival style of architecture emerged, as did Romantic poets like William Blake and John Keats. Furniture from the period featured straight lines and low-relief ornamentation.

Lot 15: George I Britannia silver salt cellars (6 pieces), 1717, together with made-to-match set of four by Crichton, London, 1931. Charlton Hall (February 22).

These Britannia silver salt shakers are significant for several reasons. Based on the hallmarks, two date back to George I’s reign in 1717 and the other four are from 1931. The 20th century set is engraved with the initials MPR, Rogers’ initials when she was married to Arturo Peralta Ramos. The date of the set suggests to Bender that these four cellars may have been a wedding gift, or commissioned by the couple on the occasion of their wedding.

According to Bender, “There was a time in English silver where Britannia standard of 950 was the requirement, but not during this period in time. You could have sterling 925 standard or special order Britannia silver.” Both the 1717 and 1931 sets would have been special ordered, “Which is a big deal because there’s not a whole lot of that around. That gives you an idea; she didn’t mess around.”

Lot 1120: George III silver wine strainer, last quarter of the 18th century. Charlton Hall (February 23).

Funnels used for decanting wine became popular in the 18th century as a way to remove cork and sediment from red wine before serving. This delicate strainer is decorated with ornate handles and an engraving of the initials JSJ.

Lot 1: Important George III Britannia Silver candlesticks, Parker & Wakelin, 1768 and 1790. Charlton Hall (February 22).

These Parker & Wakelin candlesticks are attributed to Sir William Chambers, a Scottish-Swedish architect who worked in London in the 1700s. They are related to an important service made for George Spencer, Duke of Marlborough based on designs by Chambers.

Victorian Era

Queen Victoria ruled the United Kingdom from 1837 until 1901. During her reign, politics and industry pushed forward, most notably in the form of the Industrial Revolution. Authors Charles Dickens and the Brontë sisters wrote during this time. Furniture was often dark, heavily ornamented, and inspired by previous eras.

Lot 46: Victorian silver-gilt presentation vase, 1852. Charlton Hall (February 22).

This vase was presented to Lt. Col. Sidney North M.P. by the Earl of Wilton and other officers of the British Army on the occasion of his retirement in 1855. John Sidney North served as a Member of Parliament for 33 years.

Left: Victorian Sheffield plate hot water urn, late 19th century; Right: John & George Angell, Victorian silver tea caddy, 1841. Charlton Hall (February 22 & 23).

Tea was popularized in the United Kingdom in the 1600s when Charles II’s wife, Catherine of Braganza, introduced it into the aristocratic class. It continued to be immensely popular through the Victorian era and beyond, thus sparking increased demand for tea accessories like caddies and hot water containers.

Edwardian Era

Where Victorian decorative arts were heavy and dark, Edwardian styles favored light pastel colors and floral designs. Similar to the Belle Époque in France, the Edwardian era reveals the influence of Art Nouveau.

Left: Edwardian silver ewer, 1900; Right: Edwardian silver presentation goblet, 1906 by Jay Richard Attenborough. Charlton Hall (February 22 & 23).

Decorative arts of the Edwardian era featured motifs from many different eras. This silver ewer is designed in the Renaissance style, with helmet-strap form and mask designs around the bowl.

Like modern day trophies, presentation goblets were presented on momentous occasions or for the purpose of acknowledging thanks. This Edwardian silver goblet is engraved “To Albert D.O. With deep appreciation, J.”

The Collection of Millicent Rogers from her Turtle Walk home will be offered by Charlton Hall on February 22 and February 23. Click here to explore the full collection.