A SMALL COLLECTION OF ANTIQUE SILVER
AND OBJECTS OF VERTU

an article of Christophe Ginter,
for ASCAS - Association of Small Collectors of Antique Silver
a small collection of antique silver and objects of vertu
The list of articles about Antique French Silver, its Silversmiths and Marks
 
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THE HALLMARKS OF SILVERSMITHS' WIDOWS
IN THE KINGDOM OF FRANCE (18th CENTURY)

In the Kingdom of France, no region excluded, no woman in the 18th century could be appointed a master silversmith. However, many wives of master silversmiths were themselves daughters of silversmiths and participated in the day-to-day management of the workshop alongside their husbands. If they rarely practiced the trade, at the least they were cognizant of the techniques, the accounts, and/or the relationships with the clientele.

The premature death of the husband was a dramatic event for his widow who was likely to lose any immediate source of income. According to the regulations of the silversmiths' guilds (the "jurandes") the punches of the deceased husband had to be destroyed to prevent the illegal practice of the profession. The workshop was doomed to disappear, unless its continuation by the silversmith's widow was tolerated.

Such tolerance, as one will see, was generally at a low level. In any case, even when the widow received permission to continue the business of the deceased husband, she couldn't become a full member of the silversmiths' guild (the "jurandes"). She wasn't allowed to assist in members' assemblies nor participate in the election of the wardens charged with overseeing the ethics of the profession.

A widow who received permission to continue the trade of silversmith was obliged to adopt a new punch. This article describes the punches of widows. It is striking to note the close correlation between the level of tolerance accorded to widows in the exercise of the profession and the nature of the punches imposed upon them.
Below, are examples from the towns of Paris, Bordeaux, Orleans and Douai, and the regions of Brittany and Poitou Charente.



In summary, one can distinguish within the kingdom three levels of permissiveness relating to the practice of the craft by silversmiths' widows. It is striking to note the correlation between the degree of tolerance afforded to widows in the occupation and even the nature of the punches imposed upon them.
Paris, Bordeaux, Orléans and Douai in the map of France



A) TOWNS AND REGIONS WITH A LOW LEVEL OF TOLERANCE
FOR THE EXERCISE OF THE PROFESSION BY SILVERSMITHS' WIDOWS

In such places, the hallmark of widows is regulated as follows, with very few exceptions:
V + Initial(s) of the deceased husband
The V means of course "Veuve de..." (Widow of ...), followed by the initial (or the initials) of the dead master (the first letter of his surname or the initials of his surname and first name in this order). Seldom, the letter V followed the initials of the deceased rather than preceding them.

Among the towns and regions mentioned in this article, such a situation is observed ...

in DOUAI,...

... and also in the major towns of northern France like ARRAS or LILLE. The tolerance towards the practice of the craft by widows was low. More than 150 silversmiths' punches have been identified between 1650 and 1791 in Douai, of which only three punches were assigned to widows. These punches correspond perfectly to the model above.
Directory of silversmiths' widows of DOUAI
VB Widow of Marc Antoine BROUX: Mark = VB crowned, entered c.1739 .
VD Widow of Edouard DERUELLE: Mark = VD crowned, entered in 1790 .
VT Marie-Françoise DUMORTIER, first registered c. 1738,
Widow of Jean-François TRAIZEGNIES: Mark = VT under a lion passant
Marie-Françoise DUMORTIER, Veuve de Jean-François TRAIZEGNIES

In BORDEAUX,...

...and also in AGEN, the second city of silversmithery in the region of Bordeaux, permission to practice given to widows was very late and very limited. The first punch of a widow was recorded only in 1743. Moreover, the punch took, in 1762, the mandatory form of the deceased silversmith's initial, surmounted in Bordeaux by a star; simply crowned in Agen. Six widows are duly recorded in Bordeaux and two in Agen.
List of the widows registered in Agen
VD Catherine POMSER, widow of Jean DEPAU, registered in 1772 .
VR Marie Colombe MAURIN, widow of Pierre RIEUX, registered in 1775 .

 
Directory of silversmiths' widows in BORDEAUX
VD Marie LAFAURIE, registered in 1762, widow of DARMAND
Mark = VD under a star, over two dots (points)
.
VGPM
or
VM
Anne NIVEAU, registered in 1772, widow of Gérard PELLAT-MAURIN
Two marks, one for large items, another one for small items
.
VH Jeanne CAZARET, entered in 1773, widow of David HERBERT
Mark = VH under a star, over two dots (points)
Jeanne CAZARET, Veuve de David HERBERT
VP Marie VIGNAU, registered in 1773, widow of Paul PAUC
Mark = VP under a star, over two dots (points)
.
VS Widow of Pierre SICARD: Mark = VS under a star, over two dots (points) .
VLL Louise LAFFITTE, registered in 1743, widow of Marc LA LANNE
Mark = V crowned over LL, two dots (points) in the lower point
.

PARIS,...

... the capital of the kingdom, is obviously one of the least accessible cities for the workshops of widows.
The number of the Parisian goldsmiths is considerable; more than 2000 goldsmiths operated within Paris during the 17th and 18th centuries.
On the other hand, only one widow (!) can be listed as having practiced with a personal punch in this city. Certain other widows would have received the authorization to practice, but without a punch.
VR Marguerite BOURGEOIS, registered in 1671, widow of RENAUD
Mark = VR under "fleur de lys", crowned
Marguerite BOURGEOIS, Veuve RENAUD
The other cities subordinate to the jurisdiction of Paris were more tolerant. I cite from memory the punches of the following widows:
VAL Louise LEMASSON, widow Antoine LAMBERT, enrolled at MANTES in 1775 .
VTM Angélique PENON, widow of Thomas MASSÉ, VERSAILLES 1763 .
VTT Suzanne VINDÉ, widow of Thomas TESTU, SENLIS 1757 .
PMBV Marie Anne BÉRANGER, widow of Pierre Michel BESNARD, SENS 1760 .

In SOUTH BRITTANY...

...of which the capital is NANTES, one, however, observes a rather high number of widows who had received permission to practice. This administrative region ("Généralité") which covered the south of Brittany, from Nantes to Quimper (see map on the right) was eliminated in 1774, and conjoined to the town of Rennes to make up a larger Brittany.
Nevertheless, whatever the period, the punches of widows were struck according to the principle of retaining only the initials of the dead husband, thus differing from the practices of North Brittany where the use of the initials of the maiden name of the widow prevails.
 
Bretagne in the map of France
VB Marie Magdeleine BORY, widow of Pierre BRIDON, registered in Nantes in 1762
Mark = letters VB crowned over an ermine
Marie Magdeleine BORY,  Veuve Pierre BRIDON
VB Anne Marie RENOU, widow of François BROUARD, registered in Nantes in 1786
Mark = letters VB crowned over an ermine
.
VB Françoise BRIDON, widow of Pierre BROUARD, registered in Nantes in 1755
Mark = letters VB crowned over an ermine
.
VeF Jeanne Louise LE BORGNE, widow of Julien Marie FEILLET, Registered in Quimper in 1789
Mark unknown
.
VCA Marie Armelle CAUCHY, widow of Claude APERT, active: Quimper 1770-1778
Mark = VC crowned over A
.
VG Jeanne THÉBAUD, widow of Étienne GODOFFRE, Nantes 1745
Mark unknown, described as "letters VG crowned"
.
VG Marie Anne ASSELIN, widow of François GUILLOU, registered in Nantes in 1739,
died in 1772
Mark attributed = VG
Marie Anne ASSELIN,  Veuve François GUILLOU
VeH Marie Anne JUTARD, widow of André Guillaume HERNAULT, Nantes 1787,
still active in 1800
Mark = letters VeH over an ermine
.
VJ Françoise GUERCHÉ, widow of Jacques JUTARD, Nantes 1780-1783,
Mark = (V dot [point] J) crowned over an ermine
Françoise GUERCHÉ,  Veuve Jacques JUTARD
VL Louise Renée MENEUVRIER, widow of Jean Antoine LUMINEAU,
Registered in Nantes in 1767, active until 1771
Mark = (V dot [point] L) crowned over "fleur de lys the lower point"
.
VLD Marguerite Christine PRUDENT, widow of Louis DUPONT, Pontivy 1769-1771
Mark described as: "VL crowned, D at the lower point next to 2 fleurs de lys"
.
VM Marguerite GIRAUDEAU, widow of Étienne MERCIER, Nantes 1767,
Mark = VM crowned, over two dots (points)at the sides of an ermine
Marguerite GIRAUDEAU,  Veuve Étienne MERCIER
VP Marie MICHELET, widow of Jacques PIMOT
Registered in Nantes in 1740, Mark unknown
.
MCA Marie Corentine APERT received in 1778 at Quimper the authorization to continue the workshop of her husband (Louis LEFEBVRE), then declared insane, with a punch including the initials of her maiden name
Mark = letters MC crowned, with two dots (points) at the sides of an A
Marie Corentine APERT
Finally, it's interesting to quote the case of Perrine Corentine THÉBAULT, widow of Jacques SOLLIER, who illegally retained the punch (IS) of her husband, who died in 1701. This is not a rare example. Many widows, some of them mentioned above, could have used this stratagem to maintain the possibility of continuing the work of the deceased husband.



B) TOWNS AND REGIONS WITH A NORMAL LEVEL OF TOLERANCE
FOR THE EXERCISE OF THE PROFESSION BY SILVERSMITHS' WIDOWS

In these areas the workshops of widows seemed to pose no problem (in some cases, however, the temporary use of the husband's punch was imposed). The only obligation was the addition of a V in the punch as evidence of their widowhood. The increased degree of tolerance was made evident by the authorization given to the widows to use the initials of their maiden name on the punch:
Initials of the widow (maiden name) + V
This configuration of the punch is traditional in Anjou (Main town: Angers) and also ...

in NORTHERN BRITTANY,...

...... whose main town is Rennes which, in 1774, became the regional capital of all of Brittany. In this town the rules dealing with a widow's punch were differed from those used in southern Brittany towns.
Directory of silversmiths' widows
ACV Anne CHARTIER, widow of Jérôme RÉBILLÉ,
Registered in Rennes in 1740, her punch was deleted in 1757
Mark = (a small ermine C) under "fleur de lys" crowned, over V
Anne CHARTIER,  Veuve de Jérôme RÉBILLÉ
AMV Anne MAILLARD, widow of Guillaume HAMON,
Possibly, she retained her husband's punch! Her Mark is registered in Brest in 1753. She died in 1764
.
APV Anne Hélène PIERRE, widow of Joseph LUCAS.
For three years she continued to use the punch of her deceased husband. Her widow's mark was registered in Saint-Pol de Léon in 1739: (A ermine P) crowned over V
.
CGV Claude Barbe GUILLOU, widow of Denis LACHÈSE,
Registered in Morlaix in 1753 at the death of her husband
Mark = (C small ermine G) under "fleur de lys" crowned, over V
Claude Barbe GUILLOU,  Veuve Denis LACHÈSE
EJV Etiennette JULIEN, widow of Josselin HAMON,
Obtained her first widow's punch in Saint-Malo (1743)
Mark = EJ under "fleur de lys" crowned, over a small ermine and V
.
GBV Gabrielle BIDARD, widow of Claude ROYSARD,
Registered in Rennes in 1753. She is listed until 1778
Mark = (G ermine B) under "fleur de lys" crowned, V
Gabrielle BIDARD,  Veuve Claude ROYSARD
GPV Gilonne PAYSAN, widow of Jean LOISON, Rennes 1785,
Mark = (G ermine P) under a "fleur de lys" crowned, V
.
JGV Jeanne Olive GODET, widow of Pierre Louis JORREZ,
Active at Saint-Malo from 1784 to 1790
Mark attributed = (J small ermine G) under a "fleur de lys" crowned, V
.
MGV Marie-Louise Jeanne GILBERT, widow of Didier FARGE,
registered in Saint-Malo in 1776, died in 1792
Mark = MG, small ermine, "fleur de lys" crowned, V
.
MMV Marie Bertrande MOINET, widow of Pierre (de) SAINT-VERGUET,
Active in Saint-Malo (1745-1787)
Mark = (M ermine M) under a "fleur de lys" crowned, V
Marie Bertrande MOINET,  Veuve Pierre (de) SAINT-VERGUET
MNV Marie Gillette NOYER, widow of Jean ROUSSEL,
Active in Brest (1758-1763) where she died
Mark = (M ermine N) under a "fleur de lys" crowned, V
.
MPV Marie PLUNIANT, widow of Jean LACERRE,
She maintains the punch of her deceased husband (1729), before registering her widow's punch in 1740 in Rennes.
Marie PLUNIANT,  Veuve Jean LACERRE,
MSV Marie Angélique SAUVEUR, widow of Joseph LHERMITTE,
Registered in Rennes in 1759
Mark attributed: (M ermine S) "fleur de lys" crowned, V
.
MSV Marie Martine SALAUN, widow of Guy Jean (de) COETANLEM,
Registered her widow's mark in Landerneau in 1753
Mark = (M small ermine S) under a "fleur de lys" crowned, over V
Marie Martine SALAUN,  Veuve Guy Jean (de) COETANLEM,
Last is cited the case of a widow whose design of her punch, it appears, is more like the practice of south Brittany.:
PFV Angélique COQUART, widow of Guy PELLÉ des FORGES. The punch (unknown) is described, on the official registration at Moriaix, in 1786, as having the initials of the deceased husband. The reason supporting the registration of such a punch is unknown to me. .
Also, in the bibliography, the situation is presented of Jeanne Marguerite NOYER, widow of Paul André CHAMBART in Brest, who registered her punch in 1782. The punch allotted to her contained the letters IMV, corresponding, presumably, to the use of only the initials of her first two names ("I" for Jeanne "M" for Marguerite, and "V" for "Veuve -widow-").



C) TOWNS AND REGIONS WITH A HIGH LEVEL OF TOLERANCE
FOR THE EXERCISE OF THE PROFESSION BY SILVERSMITHS' WIDOWS

In the examples which follow, it is not a question of speaking of feminism but, perhaps, quite simply a normal recognition of the performance of the widows in an art craft in which artistic sensitivity and taste play a role undoubtedly as important as physical strength and exactitude.

Not only did the widows continue, without a problem, the work of their deceased husbands, but even more they obtained the right to use a punch utilizing only the initials of their maiden name, without the letter V to allude to their widowhood. The mark of a widow thus took a form analogous to t hat of any other silversmith.
Initials of the widow (maiden name)

In ORLEANS,...

... the silversmiths' guild had an average of 20 active masters in the late 17th century. This figure had a slow decline during the 18th century (15 silversmiths are identified in 1789). Thus the following, non-exhaustive, directory of silversmiths' widows in Orleans is not negligible. It seems that, in the late 18th century, the practice of using the widow's maiden name in the punch was disregarded. However, this measure wasn't mandatory and can be considered as a deliberate choice of the widows concerned.
CF Catherine FINCHON, widow of Jean Baptiste YTASSE, registered in 1742
Mark = CF crowned over a "coeur de lys"
(A c?ur de lys is a fleur de lys viewed from the top - it is the traditional symbol of the gold and silversmiths of Orleans)
.
FF Françoise FOREST, widow of Antoine HANAPPIER,
Registered in 1746, active until 1762
Mark = FF crowned over a "coeur de lys"
Françoise FOREST, veuve  Antoine HANAPPIER
MB Marie BERRUYER, widow of Jacques LOISEAU (IV), registered 1708
Mark unknown
.
MH Madeleine Rose HUBERT, widow of Guillaume LEVÉ,
Active in Orléans from 1746 to 1757
Mark = MH under a "fleur de lys" crowned, over a "coeur de lys"
.
ML Marie LENORMAND, widow of Jacques LOISEAU (III, third of name), Registered in 1670
Mark = ML intertwined on a crescent, under a star and a "coeur de lys"
.
MLV Catherine PAYEN, widow of Martin LUMIÈRE, Registered in 1773
Mark = (M.L) under a crowned torch, over V
.
MY Marie YTASSE, widow of Christophe LEVÉ, Registered in 1708
Mark attributed = MY crowned over a "coeur de lys"
.
VD Marie DELOYNES, widow of Louis Nicolas DEHORS, Registered in 1787
Mark = letters VD crowned over a dot (point)
.

In POITOU-CHARENTE,...

... a region comprised of two administrative areas with POITIERS and LA ROCHELLE as capitals, bordered to the north by Brittany, to the south by the Aquitaine and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean.

The tolerance extended to silversmiths' widows is undoubtedly the most benevolent of the whole kingdom of France. Their total number is impressive.

In this region, only one widow used the initials of her husband's name, while another incorporated her name with that of her deceased husband

 
 





 
Paris, Bordeaux, Orléans and Douai in the map of France
Directory of silversmiths' widows of Poitou Charente (registered in the 18th century)
initials
Widow
Town
Year
AB Anne BOURDON, widow of Augustin Casimir Saint-Maixent 1780
AB Anne BERLAN, widow of Jean Collin Parthenay 1712
AB Angélique BOYER, widow of Jean Tostée Rochefort 1763
AT Anne TRICOU, widow of Charles Grillaud Poitiers 1705
CG Claire GRILLAUD, widow of ...? Poitiers 1747
CM Catherine MALTESTE, widow of Pierre Toussaint Moutet Poitiers 1776
CR Catherine RESNIER, widow of René Champion Thouars 1721
DM Madeleine DECERISIÈRES, widow of Pierre Renoust Thouars 1780 c.
FC Françoise COLON, widow of Thomas Fouquet Niort 1778
IB Jeanne BRUSSELLE, widow of René Ripault Poitiers 1729
IB Jeanne BOURDON, widow of François Guillaume Saint-Maixent 1748
JM Jeanne Marie MOUSSAULT, widow of Antoine Ro Poitiers 1744
LB Louise BERLAND, widow of Olivier Duchastenier Poitiers 1724
LC Louise Le COMTE, widow of Jean Grillaud Poitiers 1734
MB Marguerite BONNEAU, widow of Pierre Goulet Saint-Maixent 1749
MB Marie BOISSON, widow of ...? Saintes 1761
MG Marie Marguerite GRIVET, widow of Louis Delaunay Poitiers 1734
MH Marie HELLIOT, widow of Jean Delaunay Poitiers 1735
MI Marie JAMIN, widow of Pierre Joubert Thouars 1751
MIV Marie JOUFFARD, widow of Pierre Jamin Thouars 1742
MMM Marie Madeleine MASSE, widow of Alexandre Champigny Poitiers 1735
MNV Marguerite NOIRAULT, widow of Isaïe Decerizières Thouars 1774
MP Marie PAIN, widow of Daniel Rivault Parthenay 1732
MP Marie PELLETRÉ, widow of Samuel Guillaume Melle 1702
MP Marie PAYRAU, widow of Jacques Guillaume Aulnay 1776
MR Marie ROBIN, widow of Jacques Moutet Poitiers 1765
MR Marguerite ROUSSEL, widow of André Ballon Luçon 1761
MT Marie THOMAS, widow of Pierre Demange Poitiers 1721
MTD Marie Anne TABARY, widow of DESCHAMPS Bressuire 1777
MV Marie VIET, widow of Georges La Roche Niort 1732
RJ Renée JARRY, widow of Paul Racommet Parthenay 1781
SMS Suzanne Marie SAVAGNAC, widow of Bastard Niort 1742
VD Radegonde GUILLEMINOT, widow of André DUMO Poitiers 1767
? Marie Jacquette BONNIOT, widow of Jean BOSSION La Rochelle 1760
Anne Bourdon Catherine Malteste Marie Marguerite Grivet Marie Boisson Marie Robin
Anne
Bourdon
Catherine
Malteste
Marie Marguerite
Grivet
Marie
Boisson
Marie
Robin
Heraldic and monarchical symbols were the preferred motifs used in their marks by male and female silversmiths of Poitou Charente.

Conclusion

The variety of typology in the punches used by silversmiths' widows tightly reflects the different treatment accorded to their entrance to the profession. The comparison between towns and regions, even fairly close to each other, demonstrates the extreme variability of the level of tolerance characterizing the Kingdom of France in the 18th century.

Christophe Ginter
- 2010 -
Christophe Ginter is the author of the book LES 6000 POINCONS DE L'ORFEVRERIE FRANCAISE SOUS LOUIS XVI (1774/1791)
(click here for book review in ASCAS sweb site)
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