Art/ Collection/ Art Object


John Plimmer (active 1771–1803)
British, London
Width: 13 3/16 in. (33.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Anonymous Gift, 1976
Accession Number:
Not on view
The inkstand has four vase-shaped containers supported in tripod frames that suggest, in miniature, the stands of antiquity that Europeans called "Atheniennes." Two of the containers have holes in the covers for pens and inks and a third has a pierced design on the cover for sand, which served to dry the ink. The fourth container probably held wafers—small readymade paste-disks for sealing letters. There is a deep slot on each of the long sides for pens and a tray to contain other equipment, such as spare quills and the pen knife that was used to recut quills when they split or frayed from use. A medley of decorative motifs combine for the ornament of what would be otherwise a plain rectangular low box with inkwells on its top. The feet are formed of bunched acanthus leaves and above them, on the diagonally cut corners, are lion masks with a suggestion of Egyptian pharaonic headdresses. The oval at the center of the tray which holds the ring drawer-pull encloses a classical rosette, while continuous bands of fruiting olive branches run round the top and bottom edges of the sides of the stand, and acanthus scrolls and husks frame the rosette at the center of the tray's front. The frames on the top consist of rings decorated with bay leaves and berries, with legs formed of goat's feet and forelegs topped by satyrs' masks. In contrast to these ornaments that are all in relief, the four containers are restful to the eye, with convex flutes around the body and plain bases and shoulders. The maker, John Plimmer, was listed as a "small worker" in a Parliamentary report for 1773. The inkstand was put together from sheet silver and elements in relief could have been obtained from another silversmith's shop acting as supplier to the trade. The most exacting to make were the four containers, but these would have been within the capacity of his workshop. Plimmer produced a necessary item of interior furnishing with a mixture of decorative motifs in a very acceptable style in early nineteenth-century London.
Marking: [1] Leopard's head (London assay office mark);
[2] Lion passant (English quality mark for sterling);
[3] G, Roman capital in square with top corners cut and lower edge shaped (London date letter for 1802);
[4] IP with pellet between (maker's mark for John Plimmer);
[5] King's head profile to right (duty mark).

Location of marks:
[1]–[5] on underside of frame, and vases .2c–f
[2], [4] on insetting tray
[2]–[5] on covers .2g–j
Anonymous Former owner
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