Australian Historical Art Fund & Heritage Government Residences

Silver Claret Jug, C.1861

William Edwards (1819-?)
Height 43 cm

This beautifully embossed jug with military scenes around a foliate cartouche is inscribed with the monogram ‘WR’ or ‘RW’ and has a kangaroo finial.

William Edwards was a prolific silversmith who produced work of the highest quality with the best embossing. Edwards emigrated to Melbourne in 1857 while his brother, also a silversmith, continued to work in London in the family business. Bringing with him stock decorated with colonial motifs, to wholesale to retailers, Edwards had the advantage of being able to produce pieces here in Australia and also to import work from his brother’s workshop – it is not unusual to see some of his pieces have an English character even when decorated with Australian motifs.

Edwards’ silver from 1859 to 1879 can be dated accurately, with little work after 1870. He went into partnership with Alexander Kaul in 1874 and seemed to take little interest in the business after this as the high quality embossing ceased. He displayed his work at the International Exhibition in 1861 and the Intercolonial Exhibition in 1866-67, both in Melbourne. Edwards made sporting trophies, cup caskets, inkstands, epergnes and emu egg ornaments. He won major commissions such as a wedding gift for Princess of Wales in 1863, gifts for Prince Albert, The Duke of Edinburgh. In 1867 he was given a Royal appointment.

Art dealer, John Hawkins attributes the embossing on this claret to H Robottom of 29 Post Office Place, Melbourne, who exhibited at the Melbourne Intercolonial Exhibition of 1866-67. Hawkins suggestions that this jug was part of a gift from the Italian Community in Melbourne to the military and political leader Giuseppe Garibaldi whose major triumphs in leading the struggle for Italian independence took place in 1860.




This selection represents a small sample of our collection. Our book detailing the collection is currently out of print.
An updated edition has been published in 2017.
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