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Fine & Decorative Art

John Cafe – Figural Candlesticks

John Cafe - Sterling Figural Candlesticks
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John Cafe Candlesticks

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John Cafe (or possibly John Case) pair of matched figural candlesticks, of a female term figure issuing from a scrolled rococo base. One arm of the draped figure supports a vase shaped capital and a floral bobeche. Both the bobeche and the scrolled base with engraved reserves containing a crest, of a martlet on a crown and a motto in a banner. In Domino Confido is the motto, translating as I trust in the Lord. Crest is possibly for the Viscount MacGill of Oxenfoord, in Scotland.

The standard or stem of the candlesticks is cast in two sections. Marked under the base in a trefoil containing the silversmith’s initials “JC” and surmounted by a tudor rose. John Cafe created this pair of candlesticks in 1750-1751 in the reign of King George II. In mid 18th century London, he is known to have specialized in candlesticks, and particularly figural candlesticks of this type. Details of John Cafe’s life are scarce, even his name is in doubt, which is possibly Case rather than Cafe. It is surmised he began producing silver circa 1740. He passed away in 1757, and the business was carried on by his brother, William Cafe.

Cast figural candlesticks were made in Europe in the Gothic Period, but usually in brass alloy. The creation of cast candlesticks in silver in the United Kingdom was a consequence of the creation of the Britannia Standard. Parliament passed an act in 1697 requiring the standard of silver be changed from Sterling at 925 parts per thousand, to the Britannia standard at 950 parts silver per thousand. The Britannia standard remained mandatory until 1720, when it became optional.

The new metal of the Britannia standard was softer than the previous Sterling standard. Until the creation of the new standard, sterling candlesticks and other silver objects had often been hammered, but the softer metal did not lend itself to this method, so new techniques for the casting of silver were developed. Although, this pair of candlesticks by John Cafe are cast in sterling silver, they use the techniques developed in the Britannia Period. The candlesticks are thickly cast and relatively heavy, weighing a combined 54.29 troy ounces for the pair.