Christening set

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

This magnificent christening set is made of silver with a coating of gold.  It consists of a matching knife, fork, spoon, cup, plate and bowl, in the original presentation case. The adult size pieces do not seem very appropriate for children, but the set was intended as a future heirloom rather than for a young child’s use. This set was given to a girl called Jane by her godfather and is inscribed with her name and his initials.

George William Adams (1808-1895), who made this set, worked for the silversmiths Chawner & Co. This firm was established in 1815 in Smithfield, London. Adams and his father-in-law William Chawner made other pieces of silver in this pattern, and showed some at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Adams eventually took over the firm but sold it to Holland, Aldwinkle & Slater in 1883.

The set is decorated with figures from classical Greek culture: Hebe, who was the Greek goddess of youth, a dancing flower girl and the poetess Sappho. The motifs and figures on these pieces are known as the ‘Canova’ pattern. The sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) was much admired during the period 1801-1900, particularly after Henry Moses (1782-1870) made engravings of his sculptures, published in 1824. The ‘Canova’ pattern was popular, and was still in use in the 1880s.

This christening set can be seen on display in the British Galleries at the V&A.