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Author Topic:   French Wine coaster - Revolution period?
Az

Posts: 12
Registered: Apr 2005

iconnumber posted 04-05-2005 08:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Az     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have here another item wich I am not sure what the date or maker is.

Its a French (Paris prov.) Wine coaster probably made in the revolution times? There are two dutch hallmarks, Hand holding a bracket with letter M (Maastricht) and a mark of fineness 1 -- i think these are later added hallmarks or it was produced in Maastricht under the french government?

Then there are 5 french hallmarks. The only strange mark is the one with the head (looking forward) with 2 letters probably mirrored 23 (not sure about this one)

There is a makers initial of W V or A M.

Any help is appreciated, Thanks!



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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 04-05-2005 12:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The maker is Ambroise MIGNEROTF who specialized in tableware at 9 rue Jean-Robertt and later 62 rue du Temple in Paris from 1800-1818.

The Mark is basket over a period and AM
Female face and a 1 is a revolutionary mark that is also found on later silver. The first coq mark is 1798-1809.

The man's head is the the Grosse Garantie mark for the same period why the 85 is marked upside down is beyond me. Perhaps Blakstone will know as this is really not my period.

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Az

Posts: 12
Registered: Apr 2005

iconnumber posted 04-05-2005 03:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Az     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you very much labarbedor for your research! I finally know now who the maker is!

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blakstone

Posts: 493
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 04-05-2005 06:51 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Yes, I can add a few points. First, there's a typo there - the maker is MINGEROT, not MINGEROTF – and the device is not a basket but a skiff with two passengers: the same device was used by Mingerot’s successor D. Garreau from 1817.

Second, the "coq" mark is not that of 1798-1809, but the very rare mark with the "A" on the left. Tardy chose this mark for the cover of his book and attributes it to the Republican year V (i.e. 1796-97), but later research has shown that it was very probably the first in what was to be a changing series of date letters – an idea that was almost immediately abandoned - and that this rare mark was used only in the year 1798. More accurately, it was probably used from the introduction of the new marks on 1 Messidor, year VI [19 Jun 1798] until the Republican New Year on 1 Vendémiaire, year VII [22 Sep 1798.]. (One can see why the letter date system was abandoned; the Republican calendar was headache enough.)

Third, the 1798 date is confirmed by the mark not yet mentioned here: the eagle's head to the right above this coq mark. (It is struck vertically). This mark, depending on which source you consult, was either an official interim mark used before the introduction of the official marks in June, 1798, or one of the unofficial "poinçons d'essai" (like the Greek woman’s head) used by the self-regulated silvermsmiths group permitted to form after 1793. (The first view is problematic in that there is no record whatsoever of these marks in official documents, and careful study suggests that they were applied before application of the “official” marks, sometimes being overstruck by them. The problem with the latter theory is that the marks appear in many cities outside of Paris, meaning that their distribution must have had some bureaucratic machination behind it.) Whatever the case, it is agreed that the "poinçons d'essai" (but for the Greek woman’s head, which evidently did survive for some time as a sort of unofficial guarantee mark) were used only for a very few years: no earlier 1794 and no later than 1798.

Fourth, the Dutch marks are Southern Netherlands (i.e., Belgian) marks in use in 1814-1832, though they continued usage in Maastricht, which was under Dutch - not French - control, until 1842. Frankly, I find these marks the most inexplicable, since at the time there was a special mark for old French pieces which turned up for sale in the South Netherlands. However, your assumption is almost certainly correct: they represent a later mark applied after the wine coaster had turned up in Maastricht.

Finally, the reversed “85” for Paris is exremely rare, but well-known. If you hold the mark up to a mirror, you will see that it reads “85” perfectly normally. Remember: punches must be engraved in reverse to read properly once struck. Here we have evidence of a novice engraver’s error, and a reminder that the Terror took with it many skilled graveurs at the Mint and replaced them with those whose talents were much more modest.

In summary, I think you have a beautiful item whose birth can be narrowly dated to the chaotic French summer of 1798, and which bears evidence that it escaped Napoléon’s grip only to find itself in a border skirmish between the Dutch and the Belgians. This sort of history is exactly why I find continental silver so utterly fascinating.

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adelapt

Posts: 418
Registered: May 2003

iconnumber posted 04-05-2005 08:34 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for adelapt     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thank you Blakstone for a beautiful explication of a marvellous puzzle.

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 04-05-2005 09:02 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Time to get the eyes checked. I didn't see eagle or the A and obviously tried to change the maker into a German by adding the typo F.

As far as the "skiff" I would be happy to debate it. "Une nacelle" according to Larousse is a basket (as balloon basket) or a boat without a sail or mast. Since it looked like a lump to me and I knew the former term I chose it. "Skiff", a term I vaguely recognized as nautical, according to Webster is evidently a boat the usually has a sail. I looked at the successor's mark which looks like two men in a bathtub, so I would accept row boat, but would debate skiff.

That isn't really why I was adding this note. I would be curious to see what kind of quality it is. Perhaps AZ could give his opinion. From my experience this is one of the worst periods for French silver. Most is so light and poorly made it is no longer serviceable. I did keep a set of wine coasters (I may post pictures later in the week) from the same period, but only because antique French coasters are hard to come by from any period. Off hand I can't remember seeing, in hand, a piece of French silver that is good quality from about 1789 to about 1805. I am looking at an ewer from 1789. When I purchased it, I sent a picture to a friend asking if I was nuts or wasn't it finally a piece of ugly French. He agreed it is ugly. I know that is kind of a strong statement and I will probably think of an exception. I would be curious if anyone else can come up with an exceptional piece from that period. All I can think of are about a score of two bottle caster sets, I have had or seen, all light and damaged.

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Arg(um)entum

Posts: 304
Registered: Apr 2002

iconnumber posted 04-05-2005 10:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Arg(um)entum     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I have to side with Labarbedor on 'nacelle'. According to the 'Dictionnaire de L'Académie française' its use for a boat has been obsolete for over 200 years (at least in prose). Since the basket is at the top of the mark its creator probably assumed that people would realize that it is suspended from an imaginary Montgolfière.

The more substantial questions I happily leave to better qualified people.

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 04-05-2005 10:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Actually I was kidding about the debate. I wish I never called it anything. The odd thing is that I just finished reading a book by a French ancestor written about his first going to sea in 1769. I got so bored looking up obscure, and arcane nautical terms I just quit trying to figure out what kind of ships he was in. I don't think he mentioned a nacelle or I would have been confused and looked it up. On the other hand one should never miss a chance to use the word Montgolfière.

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blakstone

Posts: 493
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 04-05-2005 11:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Well, I won't debate the nautical term skiff, the translation for which comes from my 25 year-old high-school Petit Larousse. But sail or no, I will say that "nacelle" here probably does refer to a boat. I say this because a) the reference is taken from the original is culpation entry of 1800, so its use was not yet obsolete, and b) the successor Garreau's mark appears, to my eye, to have a slipper-shaped boat. Either way, it is a minor point, but thanks for keeping me on my toes.

But, labarbedor, I respond primarily to agree with you. It is certainly understandable that very little silver at all was produced during the First Republic; the primary consumers - the church and the aristocracy - certainly had other things on their minds than nice little wine coasters. But that doesn't explain why most pieces of the time are downright ugly, shoddy, or both. (This wine coaster excepted, which I think is rather handsome.)

I suppose the answer may well lie in the abolition of the guilds, pusuant to the Revolutionary ideal of free commerce. The ancient and well-regulated mystery of silversmithy became open to any nut with a hammer and an ingot . . . and it shows.

I have some very nice, heavy Fiddle Thread flatware from the era, and a plain but entirely serviceable meat skewer that I love. But as for something really handsome and well-made, the only thing I remember is a lamp-on-stand that was quite exquisite, not heavy but not thin either, with a beautiful reed-and-ribbon edge. Alas, the other reason I remember it so well was the dealer for whom I appraised it insisted upon removing the lamp from the stand and selling them separately at auction. I remember thinking that this beautiful thing had survived the Terror and Napoleon and the July Days and the Kaiser and Hitler only to be felled by simple greed.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 04-06-2005 12:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I forgot about flatware, I have also seen a few pieces from that period that were nice.

I am not sure what a lamp on stand is?

One other point a long time ago we discussed inconsistencies in French silver marking. Although it is not a great deal of time don't you find this silversmith as starting in 1800 yet the piece is dated 1798.

For myself I wouldn't care, but does that count as an inconsistency?

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Az

Posts: 12
Registered: Apr 2005

iconnumber posted 04-06-2005 04:44 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Az     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I want to thank everybody for responding to my question. I did not know that the mark was used only for one year and that its such a rare mark, im fascinated about this and its history -- THANKS!.

Second i think the quality is good, offcourse not top quality but its also not really thin silver.

[This message has been edited by Az (edited 04-06-2005).]

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blakstone

Posts: 493
Registered: Jul 2004

iconnumber posted 04-06-2005 03:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for blakstone     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
By lamp-on-stand, I meant an oil lamp (think Aladdin’s lamp) affixed to an underplate. But actually the piece I was referring to wasn’t that at all. I can only plead that fatigue allowed me, in my head, to translate what I meant - pot à oille, a sort of circular tureen with an underplate or stand – as pot à huile, or “oil pot.” A bizarre mistake, I know, but my mind can do some peculiar things when exhausted. Mea culpa.

As for the 1798/1800 inconsistency, I rather hoped no one would notice; to address it would only allow me to indulge my penchant for longwindedness. So I’ll try to be brief.

The lozenge form for maker’s marks was decreed on 17 Nivôse, year VI [1 Jan 1798]. The procedure for registering a maker’s mark was (and still is) that a maker presented the design for his mark to the Mint, who checked to make sure that it did not duplicate any previous mark. Once approved, the maker then had the punch cut by the engraver of his choice. After this, he was required to strike the mark on a copper plate at the Mint, where it was assigned a number, and that number and a written description of the mark was entered into a log book. The maker was also required to register the written description with the Prefecture of Police, where a second, different, number was assigned.

The salient point is that the maker’s mark was neither created nor supplied by the Mint: the smith provided it himself. (Though it is to be noted that he generally did not make it himself, die-cutting being a different, though related, art than silversmithy.)

Thus a silversmith could feasibly make and use a mark without registering it with the Mint, though how legal this was is debatable. There is evidence some makers did just that, in the form of clear, legible maker’s marks on items from this very early period which are struck alongside genuine official hallmarks, but which are not recorded on the copper plates (all of which survive, though the log books before 1820 do not.) Likewise, there are a number of silversmiths whose names appear in directories but whose marks were never entered at the mint. They may well have been just retailers, but a handful were members of the ancien régime guild. Their absence is theorized to be a sort of protest against the new system of control.

So there was evidently considerable leniency in the early days of the Paris Assay Office. If some makers never bothered to register their mark at all, it is not too great a stretch to suppose that Mingerot waited a year or two to register his.

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labarbedor

Posts: 353
Registered: Jun 2002

iconnumber posted 04-06-2005 03:57 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for labarbedor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Hearing that someone separated a tureen from an undertray, especially French ones, has me so upset I am having trouble concentrating. I hope at least the same person re-united them.
Once I bought an Geo. instand in three different lots, and while I got almost all including the bobeche for the taperstick, someone bought the taperstick separately and previously. I never did get them back together.

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