Cutting the mustard20 November 2023 A collection of around 100 English silver mustard pots comes for sale in Newcastle upon Tyne on November 28. Together they follow the development of a popular domestic form from the early 18th century to the present day
Mustard has been used as a medicine and a spice for millennia. But exactly what sort of silver vessel was used to serve it at the medieval or Tudor table is uncertain.
Instead, the earliest surviving form of mustard pot is the blind caster that was used from c.1700 to dispense a dry mustard powder – probably the product known as ‘Durham mustard’ that was first marketed in the city by one Mrs Clements.
Only rarely do they appear for sale. However, one by the London silversmith Anthony Nelme dated 1722, is included in the remarkable collection that comes under the hammer at Anderson & Garland. The assemblage has been put together - mainly by purchasing through dealers at fairs - over the last 35 years by a vendor from the northeast.
The change from the dry to wet mustard that took place in the second half of the 18th century ushered in the mustard pot as it is known today. Most collectors begin here with the classic 'drum' form that first emerged in the late 1750s.
There are many examples of these. Many betray the influence of the neoclassical ‘Adam style’ while the introduction of a glass liners (that made the cleaning much easier) allowed for open-work containers contrasting fretwork with cobalt blue or clear glass.
By the Victorian era multiple styles existed side-by-side and the novelty was king. These are still particularly popular today and classic forms such as the Mr Punch by Robert Hennel and a long-eared owl by Edward Charles Brown carry some of the collection’s highest expectations.
Small collections of silver mustard pots are not too unusual, but specialist Alex Butcher believes the last dispersal of this size at auction was probably the sale of the Colman Foods collection at Christie’s South Kensington in 1993.