Quantities of silver work came from de Lamerie's shop

May 16, 1993|By Lita Solis-Cohen and Sally Solis-Cohen

The sheer scope of de Lamerie's work (over 1,000 example have passed through Christie's alone, according to the auctioneer's records) points to the master silversmith operating an extensive workshop employing specialists to execute his designs. De Lamerie also apparently operated a retail shop, selling jewelry and silver from open stock and adding his hallmark and the recipient's or buyer's coat of arms after an item was selected.

It seems he also was a notorious tax evader, selling wares without his hallmark in order to avoid his guild's levies. As scholars examine the body of surviving Huguenot silver, stylistic evidence suggests that many works bearing other makers' marks may have come unmarked from de Lamerie's shop, some possibly purchased at the sales of de Lamerie's remaining inventory held after his death.

As a result, relative bargains now can be found. Shrubsole is offering for $85,000 a set of four finely finished French-inspired candlesticks, bearing the 1751 mark of lesser-known silversmith Henry Hayens. They're virtually identical to a 1749 set bearing de Lamerie's more sought-after mark, which failed to sell at Christie's with a $150,000 to $250,000 estimate.

Christie's set a world record for silver in May 1991, selling de Lamerie's "Maynard" dish for $2.54 million. In all, three of his works have fetched over $1 million each, a record for an English silversmith.

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