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Robert Smythier (active 1660-1689)

Sconce 1686

Silver gilt | 51.5 x 26.0 x 24.5 cm (whole object) | RCIN 51539

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  • A set of six cartouche-shaped silver-gilt sconces, each embossed with a scene of the Judgement of Solomon, surrounded by scrolling acanthus, national emblems and swags of husks, and surmounted by a crowned WMR cipher. Each sconce is fitted with two acanthus scroll branches.

    These sconces form part of a set of six supplied to James II in 1686. They are almost certainly the 'six silver chaced sconces' weighing 881 ounces troy 15 pennyweights delivered to the Deputy Keeper of the King's Council Chamber at Whitehall Palace on 26 November that year. The Jewel House receipt book reveals the total cost as £396 11s 3d. Each of the sconces is embossed with garlands comprised of the rose, thistle, harp and fleur-de-lis, and a scene representing the Judgment of Solomon, surmounted by the royal crown on a shell on the back plate. The maker's mark of an s. crowned in a plain shield is attributed to Robert Smythier, a prominent London goldsmith who worked for the royal goldsmith Robert Vyner. Smythier's mark also appears on several pieces of dining and chapel plate made for Charles II that remain in the Royal Collection (RCIN 48463, RCIN 31755, RCIN 31737).

    The new Council Chamber at Whitehall formed part of Sir Christopher Wren's substantial rebuilding of the palace for James II. There the king met the ministers of his Privy Council to discuss matters of state and to exercise his royal prerogative. The Judgment of Solomon, a biblical story about a wise and just ruler, embossed on the back of the sconces, was therefore a particularly appropriate subject for the room. Solomon was a popular guise for the portrayal of kingship during the seventeenth century: a notable precedent in Britain was Rubens's depiction of James I as Solomon on the ceiling of the nearby Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace, painted in the late 1620s. When James II fled to France in 1688, the sconces were used by William III and Mary II, who added their cipher 'WMR' beneath the central crown.In 1742 the sconces were noted in the State Bedchamber at Hampton Court.

    Text adapted from Charles II: Art and Power (2017).


    Supplied to James II, 1686, altered for William and Mary, 1691, restored and gilded by Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, 1812, new nozzles added, 1816.

  • Medium and techniques

    Silver gilt


    51.5 x 26.0 x 24.5 cm (whole object)