If you live in the UK, did you catch the â€œAntiques Roadshowâ€ on the BBC last weekend?
Among the usual family bric-a-brac and occasional gem, there was a rather intriguing antique silver tray bearing the makerâ€™s mark of Paul Storr. As you already know but if you didnâ€™t, Mr Storr was the mega-star maker of the late Georgian and Regency period. He was also the only English silversmith to rival Paul de Lamerie in the fame game.
The tray was engraved with a inscription explaining that it had been presented to a civic worthy in the market town of Hertford in December 1830. The tray was otherwise bog standard for this date i.e. it had a heavy cast border and feet with elaborate chased decoration. All, however, was not quite as it seemed.
As specialist Ian Pickford patiently and lucidly explained to the viewer, the hallmarks on the tray were in keeping with the inscription. They were struck in 1799/1800 at the height of the neo-classical period when it was quite impossible for such a highly elaborate tray to have been made. Still with me? This is exciting stuff!
So what had happened? Well, after gently pointing out that its obvious later alterations made the tray illegal (!) Ian suggested that an earlier Storr piece (possibly a salver or dish) had been cut up and used as the basis of the tray.
For me, this explanation begged a bigger question because Storr was still very much alive in 1830 and surely no other silversmith would perpetrate such an obvious fraud? I also think it is inconceivable, given the circumstances, that the good people of Hertford would have knowingly ripped off the recipient with a dodgy gift.
More likely Iâ€™m thinking is that they went to the best silversmith in London (i.e Mr Storr) to buy the flashiest piece they could. Unfortunately, their budget didnâ€™t match their high ambition so maybe the renowned (but naughty) Paul Storr himself sold them this cut-price pup.
Scandal! Discuss! What do you think?