GERALD BENNEY: A unique and exceptional silver, silver-gilt and red enamelled Torah Crown maker's mark for Adrian Gerald Sallis Benney, London 1996
Lot 101AR
GERALD BENNEY: A unique and exceptional silver, silver-gilt and red enamelled Torah Crown
maker's mark for Adrian Gerald Sallis Benney, London 1996
Sold for £64,900 (US$ 110,505) inc. premium
Lot Details
GERALD BENNEY: A unique and exceptional silver, silver-gilt and red enamelled Torah Crown
maker's mark for Adrian Gerald Sallis Benney, London 1996
This Torah Crown incorporates Benneys most iconic techniques of texture and enamel.

The domed crown is enamelled in translucent red over a textured ground. Pinned to the red enamel are ten silver-gilt 'flames'. This symbolises the flames from the burning bush seen by Moses on Mount Sinai. Ten curved polished arms arch over the enamel, these upswept arms support a smaller crown, the polished upswept sides terminate with ten points, from each point hangs a silver-gilt bell, with bark-effect textured surface, each suspended from a short chain. The small crown is centred with a small translucent red enamel dome over a textured ground, with polished ball finial.
The lower band of the crown has a bark-effect textured surface, the band is further applied and set with twelve cabochons, each one representing one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The underside with two cylindrical receivers for the Torah scrolls.
Fitted onto a black leather covered base which fits into a fitted carrying case, height of crown 23cm, weight total 65.5oz.

Footnotes

  • From a Private Collection.

    This Torah Crown has much been admired for a number of years whilst on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the Sacred Silver and Stained Glass Galleries.
    Created when Jerusalem celebrated its 3,000th anniversary as the capital of Israel in 1996.

    It is with no doubt the enamel on this crown is exceptional. Benneys studio managed to refine and mastered the art of enamelling on larger surface areas than Fabergé ever achieved.

    Gerald Benney decided that his home at Beenham House in Berkshire was the place to develop the use of enamels. The first steps were to travel to Zurich to find an enameller who worked for Burch Korrodi. By chance he came across the Norwegian Berger Bergensen who had worked for the House of Bolin as well as Burch. Bergensen was persued to come to Beenham House and taught the Benney work force all he knew about enamelling. It took several years to master the craft. With Alan Evans and Robert Winter becoming notable master enamellers for Benney.


    Gerald Benney: Some random personal recollections
    by Jonathan Stone

    Gerald and Janet Benney were life-long friends – from 1956 or 1957, until his death in 2008 and Janet's earlier this year; and, of course, I got to know their four children (the youngest of whom, Simon, took over the designing and making of Benney silver after Gerald retired to paint!)Janet was a major supportive force for Gerald during their very long marriage of 51 years.

    In the late 50's Gerald came under the wing of Graham Hughes, the Art Secretary (subsequently the Art Director) at Goldsmiths' Hall who was at the forefront of promoting contemporary English silver and jewellery in the post-war period. Graham took exhibitions of contemporary work all over the world from New York to Tokyo, and those exhibitions led to the establishment in England of a solid cadre of fine designers and makers, including Gerald, Andrew Grima, David Mellor, David Thomas, and John Donald.

    Gerald's Father was the Principal of the Brighton College of Art; after studying at the Royal College of Art, in the late 1950's Gerald set up his first workshop in Whitfield Street, just off Tottenham Court Road, with the famous leathersmiths, Tanner Krolle, in the same building. He became a consultant designer to Viners of Sheffield, of which my Father happened to be a Director as well as the family solicitor. In particular, Viners manufactured Studio, Chelsea, and Sable, all of which were an enormous success. The last named reflected Gerald's very successful move into "texturing" and although that and the other two designs were made principally in stainless steel, Sable was also made by Viners in sterling silver.

    Gerald's career took off when the mantle of austerity which had hung over post-war Britain, was lifted and public commissions came in to complement the private ones. The first "hallmark" of his work was the textured surface which he discovered by accident, rather in the way that Thomas Bolsover discovered Sheffield Plate in 1743. In due course, he received all four royal warrants (from the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, and the Queen Mother) and he was the Establishment's Silversmith of Choice; indeed, he made all the Royal Family's silver wedding gifts to The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. In the mid-1960's I introduced Ethel Wix to Gerald because she wanted to present to the recently-formed New London Synagogue in Abbey Road a pair or Torah Bells, Breast Plate, and Pointer; antique English ones from the 18th century had reached an astronomic price level, and, in any case, it seemed to me that a newly-established pioneering congregation ought to be breaking new ground; Gerald's work was genial, and, from that time, he made dozens of pieces of Jewish ritual silver, with the Crown in this sale being, arguably, the most outstanding in terms of craftsmanship.

    The enamelling, which Gerald introduced to his work in a spectacular way in the 1970's, became his second "hallmark" and the addition of that and gold wire greatly enriched his silversmith's work. Between 1974 and 1983, he was Professor of Silversmithing and Jewellery at his Alma Mater, The Royal College of Art; and during his career he received many accolades, including the CBE.

    The greatest silversmith ever to have worked in England was the Huguenot immigrant (at 11 1/2 months!) Paul de Lamerie; he reigned supreme in the mid 18th century as did Paul Storr in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but there was none to rival Gerald Benney from the middle of the 20th century, and he stands, alongside de Lamerie and Storr as one of the three great silversmiths in England over the last three centuries.

    We thank Jonathan Stone for his assistance and thoughts.

Saleroom notices

  • The Original registered design drawing is not being sold with the lot and has been lent by kind permission of Simon Benney. Original registered design drawing is reproduced by kind permission of Simon Benney. A copy can be reproduced and sold with the lot.
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