Matthew Boulton Treasures in the Speed Museum

I remember the Christmas I spent my Saturdays working at Wakefield-Scearce Galleries. I was barely out of college and my real job was as a graphic designer as a magazine, but on Saturday mornings I’d wake up early in my cozy seventh floor apartment in the Willow Terrace, and drive out to Shelbyville in the cold, to be stationed either among gorgeous English antiques in the second floor gallery, or in the silver vault. While I was there, I tried learn everything I could about the antiques in the gallery, and to train my eye by just being in the room with them. In the silver vault, I was mostly among the Old Sheffield Plate and the Victorian plated silver, and those Victorians had a silver piece for every conceivable function! I tried to learn them all, and I read about the plating techniques. In the first floor gallery, there were cases of sterling silver forged by the great eighteenth century craftsmen (and women–I’m looking at you, Hester Bateman!). That’s where I learned about Matthew Boulton.

Fast forward to present day–after the excitement of the snow day, when everyone went back to school, I decided to treat myself for being such an awesome snow day mom. I headed to the Speed Museum to explore the galleries and have lunch with a friend.

The Speed has adopted the contemporary practice (which I totally support) of integrating decorative arts into their  various galleries. I headed for the European Galleries and was thrilled to find some gorgeous examples of silver work and fire gilding by Matthew Boulton.

Georgeous silver work by Matthew Boulton


I have a thing for épergnes–notice the harpies adorning the legs of this one. They’re winged creatures who might snatch food–just like party guests might have done from this very épergne.
A pair of lovely ormolu mounted candlesticks and urns.

One of these days, I’ll be in an antique store and I’ll find a piece of silver with that unmistakable Matthew Boulton mark, and a piece will be mine.

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