Friday - 31 October 2014

When pen was mightier than sword

10 June 2003Written by ATG Reporter

Christie’s have helped negotiate the sale to the Victoria and Albert Museum of the Castlereagh gold inkstand created by Paul Storr and Philip Rundell for the British diplomat Viscount Castlereagh (1769-1822) in 1818.

Baroness Blackstone, Minister of State for the Arts, has announced that the inkstand has been accepted by HM Government in lieu of tax liabilities relating to the death of the 8th Marquess of Londonderry, and has been allocated to the V&A, which has secured the necessary additional funding of £313,062 with the aid of sponsors.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has contributed £150,000, the National Art Collections Fund £80,000 and the Friends of the V&A £50,000. The open market value of the inkstand, that has been on loan to the V&A for some time, is estimated to be in excess of £1 million.

An inscription on the inkstand – a magnificent memorial to the contribution which British diplomacy made to the defeat of Napoleon – records that it is made from gold snuff boxes presented to Castlereagh, then British Foreign Secretary, by the sovereigns of Europe whose arms are engraved on the inkstand. Castlereagh has been given the major credit for the treaty of Chaumont in March 1814, which bound Austria, Prussia, Russia and the United Kingdom to overthrow Napoleon. He also represented Britain at the Treaty of Vienna of June 1815 and the Quadruple Alliance of November 1815.

The inkstand was commissioned by Castlereagh on 21 July 1817 and was completed by the summer of 1819. A detailed bill for the inkstand from Rundell’s, which has survived in the Londonderry archives at Durham Record Office, records that the 22 carat gold of 21 boxes, plus an additional 50 ounces of gold, nearly 150 ounces in all, was used at a final cost of £1135.

The Castlereagh gold inkstand can be seen at the V&A’s Whiteley Silver Galleries.

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ATG Reporter

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