Rare piece of silver under the hammer in Tassie

A very rare piece of Tasmanian “Convict Period” silver by Joseph Forrester (1805–c. 1860) was up for sale in Devonport by Island State Auctions.

The main side of the salver is ornately chased with decorations of kangaroos, swans and other birds, with native Flora and is amongst the earliest examples of the use of Australian flora and fauna in decorative arts. The salver combines these images with more traditional classical details derived from British silversmithing traditions.

The inscription reads “Presented to John Frederick Sharland by The Inhabitants of the District of Bothwell”, as an expression of their high sense of his professional abilities and the skillful manner in which he discharged his duties as District Surgeon during the period of Eight Years 1838″.

This Salver is hallmarked on the underside: ‘D.B.’ (David Barclay – Retailer), the lion passant in the shield, Queen Victoria’s sovereign head and date stamps “S”.

Tasmanian colonial silver represents a unique moment in the history of material culture in Australia; between the 1830s and 1850s, a number of commemorative silver pieces were made in the colony, mainly by convict and ex-convict artisans. They were the product of a rapidly expanding colony with a booming economy, and the availability of skilled convict labour.

The salver is the product of the entrepreneurial success of Hobart merchant, David Barclay (1804–84) and the skills of the convict silversmith, Joseph Forrester. Barclay immigrated to Hobart Town from Montrose, Scotland, in 1830. Upon arrival, he set up business in Elizabeth Street, Hobart.

David Barclay retailer & his assigned convict Joseph Forrester (trained silversmith) were recognised by the colonists’, and these skills were in high demand. In the colonial setting, artisans were often called upon to make objects that were either more ambitious than their previous experience, or outside their original specialisation. This often lent these objects a naive, robust quality absent in the more professional and predictable productions from Britain.

The lot opened at $15 000 and quickly bid to $47 000, smashing the catalogued guide of $20 000 – 40 000.