John Ward, Sotheby's
One of a pair of Louis XVI silver tureens and covers, Jacques-Nicolas Roettiers, Paris, 1774-1776. Probably made for the Comte d’Angiviller, and purchased by Gouverneur Morris while in Paris as American Minister, 1792-94. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
One of a pair of Empire silver tureens, covers and stands, J.H. Fauconnier, Paris, 1817. Part of James Monroe’s purchases to refurnish the White House, after it was burned by the British during the War of 1812. White House Collection.
Regency silver-gilt cup and cover, Paul Storr for Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, London, 1817. Presented as a trophy for the Charleston Races of 1818. Chrysler Museum, Norfolk.
Silver tablewares are luxury items that need to appeal to fashionable buyers, and yet are small enough to be easily transportable. This makes them excellent heralds of any new style, and they were one of the key ways in which Neoclassical design travelled to America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
George Washington’s purchases for his stepson John Parke Custis were among the earliest non-rococo examples, imported while America was still a British colony, and are paralleled in the purchases made by Southern gentlemen like Arthur Middleton on their Grand Tours. American diplomats such as Thomas Jefferson and John Adams acquired fashionable accessories while stationed in Europe, and the French Revolution brought pieces of the highest level onto the market, to be secured by Gouverneur Morris and Chancellor Robert Livingston. As the commercial relationship with England stabilized, merchants of New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston resumed their purchases, while France supplied splendor directly in the purchases of Presidents Madison and Monroe, and indirectly in the plate brought by foreign ambassadors to the new capitol. All of this provided examples of Greek, Roman, or Empire magnificence to compliment evolving American architecture, and to inspire American craftsmen, through the successive waves of Classical taste in this period.
John D. Ward received a BA from the University of Chicago and an MA from the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, before joining Sotheby’s Silver department in 1997. In 1998 they sold the Thyssen Meissonnier tureen for $5.3 million, then the second-highest price ever paid for a piece of silver. He has set the record for American silver three successive times, most recently in 2010 with the Loring Punch bowl at $5.7 million.
Other major sales and collections have included a silver centerpiece from Louis XV’s court goldsmith, sold to the Getty Museum in 2004; silver descended from George Washington and the Custis family, sold in 2005; an Italian Renaissance tazza from the collection of J.P. Morgan, sold in 2013, and treasures from the legendary Sassoon family in 2020. He was responsible for silver and objects of vertu in the single-owner sales of Edmond and Lily Safra, Gianni Versace, the Kennedy family, Laurance Rockefeller, Brooke Astor, Michael Steinhardt, Jayne Wrightsman, Bunny Mellon, Barbara & Frank Sinatra, Mario Buatta, and the Princes of Hanover.
Mr. Ward has placed works with the Metropolitan Museum, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Winterthur Museum, and other major institutions including the museums of Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, and L.A. County, plus the British National Trust.