The sale at Woolley & Wallis in Salisbury on January 24-25 included a baluster form coffee pot with shell scroll and trellis decoration, cone finial and circular foot dated to c.1740. Weighing just under 15oz and struck with the unidentified maker’s mark MP, it dates from the first years of the long and opulent tenure of Grand Master Emmanuel Pinto da Fonseca (1741-73).
Valued way above the equivalent English vessel at £3000-5000, it sold at £17,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) to ‘an overseas buyer’.
The price is among the highest bid at auction for a Maltese coffee pot. At Chiswick Auctions in October 2021 a heavier gauge 30oz Maltese coffee pot with marks for Giovanni Arrotin of Valletta c.1780 sold for £13,000.
Although the island of Malta supported a surprisingly large number of silversmiths in the 17th and 18th centuries (an estimated 600 makers from 1680-1820) relatively little silver from the period survived in situ. The Silver of Malta (1995) by Alaine Apap Bologna records the treasure trove of secular and ecclesiastical gold and silver ransomed or melted down under Napoleon’s brief rule and countless other pieces that left the island before and after as maritime souvenirs.
Today, when they occasionally come for sale on UK or mainland European soil, most pieces are destined to return to the Maltese archipelago.