Auction Preview: Irish Silver at Bonhams 5 April

Mark Fallon c. 1720-40 rare 18th century Irish provincial silver mug H: 12cm

While Alison FitzGerald’s recent book Silver in Georgian Dublin: Making, Selling, Consuming concentrates on production in the capital (which is where the Assay Office has always been based), it also contained ample information on regional centres. One of these was Galway where in the early 18th century perhaps the best-known silversmith was Mark Fallon. Much of his work seems to have been in the manufacture of chalices and other religious items, and only a handful of secular pieces carrying his mark have been identified. One of these was a George II silver mug which came up for sale at Bonhams in 2011, after being in an American collection for many decades: it sold for £15,000. In April what might be called its twin is also being offered by Bonhams. The mug, which had been on loan to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum for some years of late, was given to the vendor’s mother by a couple who lived in a small town near to Galway. Like the lot sold in 2011, it is engraved with a contemporary marriage monogram ‘F R*A’, and carries the same dolphin crest of the Ffrench family. Furthermore on both mugs additional crests have been engraved above the dolphin: a collared stag’s head on the present lot, and a demi-lion with crescent on the other. The style of the engraving suggests the additions were made  around 1800, and thus it would seem the mugs were made as a pair c.1730 and split up around the time the later engravings were put on, marking their division between two families. The present lot is expected to fetch £12,000-£15,000: it would be wonderful if, after more than two centuries of separation, it were now to be reunited with its twin.

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