The Garrett salver was donated to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery by Miss M Horne on behalf of the descendants of James Garrett in 1960.
This presentation salver can be regarded as the material deposit of a number of intersecting forces running through Tasmanian colonial society in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is the immediate product of the entrepreneurial success of Hobart merchant, David Barclay (1804–84) and the skills of the convict silversmith, Joseph Forrester. Barclay immigrated to Hobart Town from Montrose, Scotland, in 1830. Upon arrival, he set up business in Elizabeth Street with a consignment of goods he had brought from Britain, advertising his services as a watch and chronometer maker. Joseph Forrester (active, Hobart 1829–46), was transported from Perth, Scotland, in 1813 for house breaking. Convict records note that he was trained as ‘… silversmith, jeweller and watchmaker’.
In the early years of the colony, the need to acknowledge the efforts of those who contributed to the development of the island’s fledgling communities was strongly felt. This salver was presented to James Garrett on the occasion of his departure from Bothwell, a small town in southern Tasmania, about 70 kilometres north-west of Hobart. Garrett, also from Scotland, was Presbyterian minister at Bothwell from 1829 to 1840. As minister, an amateur naturalist and a founding member of the Bothwell Literary Society he had gained the respect of his small community. The inscription on the salver reflects this stating that the salver is ‘... In token of their [the community’s] gratitude for his unceasing endeavours for seven years to elevate the moral and intellectual character of the Community’.
Garrett’s salver features one of the earliest uses of Indigenous motifs in decorative arts in Australia. The central shield is supported by a kangaroo and an emu; behind them is a background of scrolling wattle. The bold, naive style of the embossing is characteristic of Forrester’s work.
A circular, silver presentation salver with embossed and engraved decoration, raised on three cast feet. The decoration consists of a central, polished shield in which an inscription is engraved, supported by an emu to the left and a kangaroo to the right. The kangaroo fur is delicately rendered in finely tooled strokes, while the emu feathers are rendered in cross-hatched tooling and superimposed, longer engraved strokes.
Immediately surrounding the shield is scrolling acanthus leaf decoration. There is an open-fronted helmet containing a grotesque face directly above the shield. This crest is framed by sprigs of flowering wattle to either side, rising from crossed branches at the base. The wattle stems are boldly embossed, while the flowers have been rendered with a small punch. The background to the whole is closely tooled with a very fine circular punch.
The edge of the salver has a raised flange that is decorated with several bands of pattern. At the transition from the well to the flange, there is a pattern of repeating, symmetrical acanthus leaf motifs alternating with undecorated, polished points. Beyond this there is second, shallower scalloped step to a rim decorated with alternating rose and leaf motifs. The reverse is undecorated and the embossing and engraving of the face can be seen. The salver is supported on three cast silver feet. Each of these has a low relief representation of an eagle feeding a clutch of five hungry egrets in a nest.
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery seeks to build a comprehensive representation of Tasmanian colonial decorative arts. This includes items made in Tasmania from 1803 through until 1930.
Tasmanian colonial silver represents a unique moment in the history of material culture in Australia; between the 1830s and 1850s a number of commemorative silver pieces were made in the colony, mainly by convict and ex-convict artisans. They were the product of a rapidly expanding colony with a booming economy, and the availability of skilled convict labour.
The aspirations of the colonists to develop and improve both land and society were reflected in these objects and the Garrett salver demonstrates their appreciation of an individual deemed to have had contributed to this improvement. The colonists’ wealth meant that the skills of convicts such as Joseph Forrester were in demand. In the colonial setting, artisans were often called upon to make objects that were either more ambitious than their previous experience, or outside their original specialisation. This often lent these objects a naive, robust quality absent in the more professional and predictable productions from Britain.
The decoration of the Garrett salver, incorporating a kangaroo, an emu and wattle branches, is amongst of the earliest examples of the use of Australian flora and fauna in Australian decorative arts. The salver combines these images with more traditional classical details derived from British silver smithing traditions.
Engraved on face:
TO THE REVEREND JAMES GARRETTT
The Members of the Bothwell Literary Society
Fifty-Five other Inhabitants of the District
of their gratitude for his unceasing endeavours
FOR SEVEN YEARS
to elevate the moral and intellectual
character of the Community.’
Marks struck on underside: ‘D.B.’ (David Barclay) / lion passant in shield (facing right) / S’ (date?) mark / sovereign’s head (Queen Victoria?)?).
Alexander, A (ed.) 2005, The Companion to Tasmanian History, Centre for Tasmanian Historical Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart.
Ellis, S 2001,Bothwell Revisited, A History: Foundation Federation and the Millennium, Bothwell Historical Society Inc, Bothwell, Tasmania.
Hawkins, J 1990, Nineteenth Century Australian Silver, vol. 2, Antique Collectors’ Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, United Kingdom.
Mercer, P 1982, ‘David Barclay, Craftsman of Hobart Town 1830–1884’, The Australian Antique Collector, January–June, pp. 49–53.
Pickford, I (ed.) 1989, Jackson’s Silver and Gold Marks of England, Scotland and Ireland Antique Collectors’ Club, Woodbridge, Suffolk, United Kingdom.
Smith JC 1966, ‘Garrett, James (1793?–1874)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 1, Melbourne University Press, p. 428.