Nathaniel Smith & Company
Date Made/Found: 1775-1780
, founded 1780
Dimensions: Overall: 175 x 195 x 300mm (6 7/8 x 7 11/16 x 11 13/16in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: L1920.13
This is a fruit basket made of Old Sheffield Plate, between 1775 and 1780.
Although recorded as a fruit basket the term was interchangeable with cake basket as the name for a receptacle used to hold bread, cakes or fruit at the table. They were usually made of openwork silver, either pierced or basket style. They were in use from the mid 1700s, and were generally circular or oval with a swing handle. Baskets with handles are usually referred to as cake baskets, and those without as fruit baskets or bowls. They were as much table ornaments as practical devices, showing off tempting and colourful desserts to those at the dinner table.
An observation in poetry…
John Keats, in his poem 'The Eve of St. Agnes' (1820), wrote of ‘baskets bright/ Of wreathed silver: sumptuous they stand’. He talks of them being piled up with ‘a heap
/Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd;/ With jellies smoother than the creamy curd.’ They also held dates and ‘spiced dainties’.