This presentation salver with its repoussé decoration of thistles, leaves and flowers was one of four similar pieces produced by the Hobart silversmith David Barclay and made by silversmith Joseph Forrester from around 1831 to 1845. It is a work of elegant form and fine craftsmanship, bearing an inscription relating to Anthony Fenn Kemp, an early Tasmanian settler, soldier and merchant and a significant figure in Tasmanian colonial life and business.
David Barclay was born in Montrose, Scotland in 1804 and died in Hobart in 1884. He trained as a jeweller and watch- and instrument-maker in Scotland. He arrived in Hobart on board the emigrant ship Resource on 29 June 1830, establishing his business shortly after as a ‘watch and chronometer maker’ in Elizabeth Street. Barclay transferred his business to Hobart’s Liverpool Street in 1866 and sold it to William Golding on 18 March 1878.
As Barclay was entitled to be assigned convicts, he employed Joseph Forrester (another Scot from Perth in Scotland, born in 1805) as a silversmith from about 1830 until Forrester’s ticket of leave in 1839, and possibly until his pardon and departure for Victoria in 1845. Forrester’s recidivism while in Barclay’s employ and subsequent incarcerations between March 1833 and March 1835 made it improbable that he produced any work for Barclay during that time.
It is therefore likely that this salver was made as an un-engraved stock piece by Forrester and only later engraved with the following inscription on the salver’s central reserve cartouche: ‘Presented to Anthony Fenn Femp, Esq., by 150 of his fellow colonists, Hobart Town, Van Diemens Land, 1834’. It is engraved on its base with the wording, ‘Manufactured in the colony by Mr D Barclay, 1834’, with the stamped maker’s mark ‘DB’.
This work is an important Tasmanian addition to the Gallery’s collection of early Australian metalwork. It creates a connection with the Gallery’s fine c 1848 silver snuff box made by Forrester for Charles Brentani, after he left Barclay, as well as with an 1840s Thomas Bock portrait of Barclay, one of the few colonial portraits to depict an Australian craftsperson.
Robert Bell AM
Senior Curator, Decorative Arts and Design
in artonview, issue 68, summer 2011