An important London armorial delftware mug, probably Southwark, dated 1683

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Lot 106
An important London armorial delftware mug, probably Southwark, dated 1683

Sold for £ 51,250 (US$ 63,663) inc. premium
An important London armorial delftware mug, probably Southwark, dated 1683
Of generous bulbous form and applied with a strap handle, finely painted in blue, yellow and orange with the arms of Robert Sewell surmounted with the initials E S and the date 1683, flanked by two large sprays of oriental flowers including butterflies, Narrow horizontal bands at the rims, 21.9cm high


  • According to the College of Heralds these arms were patented by Robert Sewell on 6 June 1667. The arms are described as Argent on bend gules, 3 martlets of the first, crest on a helmet, a mural crown surmounted with a martlet of the first.

    The Sewell family were natives of the village of Great Henny in Essex and were the first to introduce rolls of cloth called 'bays' in Halstead during the late 16th century. The Sewells were one of five major families who controlled the cloth industry in Halstead. Robert Sewell was born around 1610-1613 and was the youngest son of John Sewell (1570-1645) and Parnell Ellis. He had three older brothers, John, Thomas and Christopher and two sisters, Frances and Helen.

    In 1626, Robert Sewell was apprenticed to Richard Carrier, a draper in London. In The Sewells in the New World (1924), Sir Hector Livingston Duff describes Robert Sewell as a 'Gentleman of His Majesty's Privy Chamber' and it is possible that Robert Sewell held a position in the court of Charles II. Dr. Brune Ryves (1596-1677) was the chaplain to both Charles I and Charles II. During the civil war Dr. Ryves made at least one trip abroad to carry funds to Charles II. With Charles II restored to the throne, Ryves was appointed Dean of Windsor, the spiritual head of the Canons of St George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. If Robert was a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, it seems probable that he gained his position in the court through his family connection to Dr. Ryves. On the death of Dean Ryves, Robert Sewell and his wife Jane inherited £300, £100 for each of their six children and a further £100 for the unborn child Jane was carrying at the time.

    At some point Robert Sewell was made a Citizen of London and he was active in the Merchant Taylors Company. In August 1666, when a Hearth Tax was collected for the City of London, a Robert Sewell is listed as living 'in a little courte' in the parish of St Gregory by St Paul's and having a total of ten Hearths in a stand-alone residence. Just one month later this area was obliterated by the Great Fire. Robert Sewell was a Warden in the Merchant Taylors company between 1672-74 and was appointed Master in 1677. According to the will of his second wife's later husband, Robert Sewell died in about 1686.

    It has not been possible to link the initials ES inscribed on the rim of this mug to any direct family relatives of Robert Sewell. Robert Sewell married twice, firstly to Dorothy and secondly to Jane. A John Sewell was baptised on 21 August 1653 at St Gregory by St Paul, the son of Robert and Dorothy. John Sewell gave his father nine grandchildren baptised at St Georges Chapel Windsor between 1682 and 1700. Robert Sewell and his second wife Jane had a son also named Robert, who in 1672 began a seven year apprenticeship to a clothworker George Naylor, based in Paternoster Row. It is this son who carried on the arms patented by his father. On 11th September 1680 the younger Robert Sewell was admitted to the Merchant Taylor's School and his name appears in the School's Register. Some time later he joined the 14th Buckinghamshire Regiment of Foot. Robert Sewell Jnr. served as a Lieutenant and was wounded while in command of a detachment from the grenadier company at the Siege of the Fortress of Namur in 1695 during the Nine years war. Captain Robert Sewell married Sarah Stubber in about 1703 and they lived in Ireland. Shortly afterwards Miss Stubber was bequeathed estates in Ireland from her uncle, at which point Robert took the name Stubber. A grant of arms was made to Captain Robert Sewell (now Stubber) on 28 May 1707 by the Sheriff of Dublin. The arms became quartered and his children took the name Sewell-Stubber.

    A lipped jug of very similar form dated 1682, decorated with the arms of the Draper's Company is in the Glaisher Collection in the Fitzwilliam Museum, illustrated by Lipski and Archer, Dated English Delftware (1984), fig.980 and Archer (2013), fig.C.19. A smaller mug of similar form dated 1682 from the John Philip Kassebaum Collection was sold at Sotheby's 1 October 1991, lot 36. Others dated between 1682 and 1696 are recorded by Lipski and Archer, figs. 787, 796, 800 and 801. This style of acanthus leaf scrollwork flanking an armorial shield was used on many pieces of London delftware in the second half of the 17th century. A number of surviving pieces bear the arms of London livery companies and it may have been through his involvement with the Merchant Taylors Company that Robert Sewell commissioned this delftware mug. A posset pot with the arms of the Merchant Taylors, dated 1674 is in Lipski and Archer, fig.903. This features oriental style flowers on the reverse. The formal flower painting on Robert Sewell's mug is in a manner favoured by London delftware potters. This particular composition with a prominent lotus leaf in one of the upper corners is seen on other mugs and posset pots (Lipski and Archer figs.776, 902, 907 and 908)
An important London armorial delftware mug, probably Southwark, dated 1683
An important London armorial delftware mug, probably Southwark, dated 1683
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