Silver Light and Shade


The Holburne Museum presents Silver: Light and Shade, an exhibition that brings together historic and contemporary silver masterpieces to investigate the texture, form and colour of this precious metal. The exhibition, the third and final major presentation in the Holburne’s centenary programme, shows an extraordinary selection of objects on loan from UK museums and private collections which are displayed alongside highlights from the Holburne’s collection.

Silver: Light and Shade explores the different processes used by silversmiths to create a range of surface textures and patterns, highlighting the continuity between the techniques used for centuries and those used today. Showcasing the work of skilled contemporary makers including Hiroshi Suzuki, Malcolm Appleby, Rod Kelly and Adi Toch alongside some of the finest and rarest pieces in silver to have survived from the last 500 years, the exhibition considers what inspires commissions and how different artists approach them to create exquisite and unusual objects.
Catrin Jones, Curator of Decorative Arts at the Holburne said: ‘My aim with this exhibition is to reintroduce people to silver, telling a new and surprising story. What excites me is the science and precision involved in working with silver, and the astonishing skill of makers using experimental techniques to create unique surface effects. By showing modern silver alongside some of the rarest and most artistically important pieces made over the last five centuries, I hope that visitors to museums will be inspired to look differently at historic silver.’
The exhibition includes works that illustrate silver’s distinctive qualities, and in particular the way makers throughout history have transformed the surface of the metal. Works span a wealth of eras and styles, from The Cassel Beaker made in 1496, which is the earliest surviving English beaker (on loan from the V&A), to masterpieces of 20th century design by David Mellor and Robert Welch. Visitors can also see Jane Short’s virtuoso enamelled Millennium Dish, a pair of candlesticks made for Liberty, a collection of contemporary commissions on loan from the V&A inspired by historic serving slices, and the Mostyn Ewer and Basin (on loan from the National Museum of Wales), which dates from c.1561 and is embellished with its original enamel coat-of-arms.
The pieces in the exhibition also illustrate the role of silver as a demonstration of wealth and status, and its position in history as a display material. A cup and cover presented by Frederick, Prince of Wales to the City of Bath following his visit in 1738 is shown alongside the original leather case in which Richard ‘Beau’ Nash, the flamboyant Master of Ceremonies at the Assembly Rooms, carried it from London. John Flaxman’s Shield of Achilles, a huge silver-gilt piece first seen at George IV’s coronation banquet in 1821, will be displayed lying flat, allowing visitors to follow the intricate stories on its sculptural surface, decorated with scenes from Homer’s Iliad.
Silver: Light and Shade uncovers the experimental techniques used to transform the colour of silver, including patination, the mixing of chemical compounds and gilding. The colour and patina of silver are affected by the techniques used to work it and the way it has been cared for: silver can be turned black or matt white, it goes red under heat, and it can be combined with base and other precious metals, enamel or precious stones.
This exhibition will celebrate the material’s visual impact, how it is worked and what it means in the history of decorative objects and contemporary design.
Silver: Light and Shade is curated by Catrin Jones and Vanessa Brett.

Principal Sponsor
The University of Bath

Supported by
The Goldsmiths’ Company
The Silver Society


Press Enquiries
For more information about the Holburne Museum, please contact:
Katie Jenkins | E: | T: +44 (0) 1225 388547

Listings information
Silver: Light and Shade
22 October 2016 – 22 January 2017
£10 (£8.50 without donation) | £9 concessions (£7.50 without donation)

Book to accompany the exhibition written by Catrin Jones and Vanessa Brett £6.95
The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath BA2 4DB
Open daily, free admission 10am to 5pm (11am to 5pm Sundays and Bank Holidays)
T: 01225 388569 | E: |
In Partnership with Bath Spa University
CLOSED 24 to 26 December and 1 January

About the Curators

Catrin Jones is Curator of Decorative Arts at the Holburne Museum in Bath. Alongside Silver: Light and Shade, she is currently working on various commissions including Linda Brothwell’s The Missing, a contemporary response to the Holburne’s collection.
Vanessa Brett is an independent scholar, historian and silver specialist. Her most recent book, Bertrand’s Toyshop in Bath: Luxury Retailing 1685–1765, published in 2014, was described by reviewers as ‘delightful and idiosyncratic’ and ‘a genuinely fresh and original contribution to social history’.

Silver: Light and Shade: Celebrating the 1916 Centenary
This exhibition is part of a series of three major exhibitions to celebrate 100 years since Sir William Holburne’s collection moved to its permanent home on Great Pulteney Street in Bath.
The Holburne Museum first opened in 1893 in a former bank in Charlotte Street, Bath. However, the premises were too small for the collection and by 1913 the Holburne Trustees had negotiated the purchase of the Sydney Hotel and part of the surrounding Sydney Gardens. The museum opened to visitors on 6 June 1916 in its new home, converted by Reginald Blomfield. The collection, curated by George P. Dudley Wallis (1883-1977), was described the following year in The Burlington Magazine as ‘a model of arrangement for all local museums and for many larger and more valuable collections.’
2016 is a year of special celebration of the Museum and its collection. Silver is one of the great strengths of Sir William Holburne’s founding bequest. The silver on show from the permanent collection consists of grand, buffet-style displays, and smaller celebrations of intricacy and craftsmanship. Comprising rare early English pre-Civil War survivals, European and English silver-gilt for display and eighteenth-century domestic silver, the collection also includes significant groups of Dutch and German flatware and vessels from the seventeenth century. Silver: Light and Shade provides an opportunity to use Holburne’s collection as a catalyst for a wider exploration of historic and contemporary silver.

About The Holburne Museum
The Holburne Museum’s mission statement is ‘Changing Lives Through Art’. This reflects our commitment to opening up the enjoyment of art to people of all ages and from every walk of life.
The Holburne Museum houses an important art collection formed by Sir William Holburne in the early nineteenth century, which includes paintings, silver, sculpture, furniture and porcelain of national and international significance. Artists in the collection include Gainsborough, Guardi, Stubbs, Ramsay and Zoffany.

The Museum reopened in May 2011 after ambitious renovations and a new extension by Eric Parry Architects. The Holburne has fast gained a reputation as one of a number of outstanding regional museums in the UK.
• Winner of the Museums & Heritage Award for the re-display of the permanent collection.
• Winner of the RIBA Building of the Year, south west.
• Winner of the Civic Trust’s Michael Middleton Special Award for a restoration/extension project within a conservation area.

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