The highly historic and impressive silver-gilt shield, which bears the Royal Arms of Ernst Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover (1771-1851), will take centre stage on the stand of Koopman Rare Art
at TEFAF Maastricht 2019. It has an asking price in the region of £5 million.
Lewis Smith, Director of leading London silver dealers Koopman Rare Art, said: We are hugely honoured to offer this exceptional silver-gilt work of art at TEFAF Maastricht. The Shield of Achilles is without doubt the most spectacular example of Regency silver of all time.
Made by one of the most pre-eminent English silversmiths Philip Rundell (1743 - 1827), the circular shield is cast in silver-gilt and chased after a design by John Flaxman (1755 1826).
In its form, the shield follows the Renaissance tradition of imposing display chargers or shields elaborately decorated with scenes commemorating great military battles and notable events. In this instance, the design is inspired by episodes described in the 18th book of Homers Illiad, most notably where a magnificent shield is made for Achilles after his own had been seized as part of the spoils of war by Hector. The subject matter determined the name by which it became known, namely The Shield of Achilles.
With a diameter of 35 ¾ in (89.7 cm) and weighing a substantial 723 oz (22,490 g), the shield is dated 1823 and bears the makers mark of Philip Rundell for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell. It also engraved on the reverse with a cypher, coat of arms and with the inscription: The shield of Achilles/ designed and modelled by the late/ John Flaxman R.A./ executed and published by Rundell Bridge and Co./ London 1838.
This spectacular masterpiece of early 19th century British silver, clearly illustrates the successful creative collaboration between an outstanding silversmith and a leading sculptor and designer.
Only five examples of this veritable tour de force of silversmithing, were ever made. One was bought by King George IV in 1821 to form the centrepiece for the buffet of plate at his coronation banquet. This remains in The Royal Collection. Another was acquired by Frederick Augustus, Duke of York, and is now in the collections of the Huntington Library and Art Gallery, San Marino, California. Two further shields both marked for 1822-23, are now in the collections of His Excellency Mohamed Mahdi Altajir and the National Trust at Anglesey Abbey respectively.
The present shield was acquired by the Duke of Cumberland circa1838, after his accession to the throne of Hanover the previous year. In all likelihood, the arms must have been engraved after 1839 as they incorporate the Order of St. George of Hanover, which was instituted by Ernst Augustus in April 1839.
The shield passed by descent in the Hanoverian Royal family until sold, probably in 1923. In circa 1940, it was acquired by Josef van Mierlo, and remained in the possession of the van Mierlo family, Essen, Belgium until it was auctioned by Sothebys London in 2007. It has been in a private collection since then.
In preparation for TEFAF Maastricht 2019, Koopman Rare Art are in the process of compiling a fully illustrated catalogue about this iconic Regency silver shield, which will feature previously unpublished images of drawings relating to the design.