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    Duke of Portland’s Silver Filigree Box & Cover

    circa 18th century

    length: 10.2cm, width: 10.2cm, thickness: 3.4cm; weight: 222g



    private collection, England; Duke of Portland, KG, GCVO (Welbeck Abbey).

    – scroll down to see further images –

    This finely executed box and cover  of square form, is of fine, solid silver filigree arrayed in an unusually open format. Each side, the base and the fitted cover are all in the same repeated filigree blossom motif within tightly scrolled borders. Possibly the box is from Goa, or elsewhere in India.

    The box has as its provenance, the Duke of Portland. It is not clear how or when it entered the Portland family’s collection. However, Jones (1935) in his introduction to the inventory of the family’s silver collection mentions that the collection is the result of several family inheritances, including a quantity of silver items brought to England by Hans William Bentinck, a Dutch and English nobleman who became the first Duke of Portland. Bentinck lived in England and Holland variously in the late 17th century and in 1690 was sent by William III to The Hague on a diplomatic mission.

    Later, the family had close connections with India. Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck (1774-1839), the second son of the third Duke of Portland who served as prime minister, himself served as Governor of the Madras Presidency from 1803 to 1807. He was made Governor-General of the Presidency of Fort William from 1828 to 1833. He was appointed to turn around the loss-making East India Company so that its charter would be renewed by the British government. The role was refashioned as Governor General of India in 1833. Bentinck carried on in this role until 1835. The outlawing of suttee, the practice whereby Hindu widows were expected to throw themselves on their deceased husband’s funeral pyres, was one of his reforms introduced whilst Governor General.

    Welbeck Abbey passed through an heiress into the Bentinck family in the eighteenth century and became the main seat of the Earls and Dukes of Portland. Their descendants still live on the estate. Since 2005, it has been the home of William Parente, the only grandchild of the 7th Duke and Duchess of Portland. Lady Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, the elder daughter of the 7th Duke, lived on the estate at Welbeck Woodhouse, up until her death in late 2008.

    The condition of this box and cover is excellent. The cover and the base fit together perfectly.


    Archer, M. et al, Treasures from India: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle, The National Trust, 1987.

    de Filippis, M., ‘Margrieta van Varick’s East Indian goods’, in The Magazine Antiques, September 2009.

    Jones, E.A, Catalogue of Plate Belonging to the Duke of Portland, KG, GCVO, at Welbeck Abbey, London, 1935.

    Piotrovsky, M. et al, Silver: Wonders from the East – Filigree of the Tsars, Lund Humphries/Hermitage Amsterdam, 2006.

    Singh Bansal, B., The Lion’s Firanghis: Europeans at the Court of Lahore, Coronet House, 2010.

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