A SMALL COLLECTION OF ANTIQUE SILVER
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THE WHAT IS? SILVER DICTIONARY

EPERGNE

The epergne is a centerpiece introduced from France to England c. 1715. Its frame could be dressed with selected component parts depending on the meal or the course being served.
The examples, manufactured by Lamerie, Crespin and others had an elaborate sculptural base surrounded by cruet and casters.
From c. 1740 epergnes assumed the form of a central basket on a low stand, flanked by four smaller dishes or baskets rising from branches above scroll feet. The central basket was for fruits while the smaller containers were intended for sweetmeats and pickles.
In the 1760s the number of dishes and baskets grew (until twelve), the frame became higher and the components lighter.
Later in the century delicate piercing was introduced and hanging baskets were often replaced by small dishes on flat stands which could be adapted to individual use.


Chinese pagoda silver epergne, London 1764




A popular type of epergne was made in the shape of a Chinese pagoda fitted into the main frame.
Epergnes were the single most costly element in the entire dinner service and in the 19th century crystal dishes were used in the place of the silver bowls because of the lower cost.
For the same reason many more examples were produced in Sheffield plate than in solid silver.
The origin of the name is obscure, but according to some sources it derives from French épargne meaning "saving". The idea being that dinner guests were saved the trouble of passing dishes (although an epergne in French is called a surtout).



silver epergne, London 1789 silver epergne, Dublin late 18th century

Epergne: Old Sheffield Plate Epergne: Old Sheffield Plate Epergne: Old Sheffield Plate

silver epergne, London 1895 silver epergne, London 1912

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