The Vaillant dinner service with 12 Royal soup plates
The French influence on table habits and table services was once again noticeable in Europe in the beginning of the 19th century. Emperor Napoleon revived the customs that had been in use before the revolution and commissioned new services that were an inspiration in Europe, especially in terms of style. As was the case in the Netherlands where after Napoleon’s defeat various silver services were made.
In 1816 the City of Amsterdam commissioned retailers Bennewitz & Bonebakker and Diemont to create a table service as a gift to the Prince of Orange, the later King William II, who married Anna Paulowna of Russia. Of the 419-piece service, 150 parts were supplied by Bennewitz & Bonebakker, while Diemont supplied over 200 dinner and deep plates as well as all the dishes. The pieces were made by silversmiths who worked for these retailers, for Bennewitz & Bonebakker those were Bennewitz himself, Stellingwerff, De Haas and Teuter, and for Diemont Smits and Carrenhof.
The enormous service stimulated the Amsterdam silver production just after the French period, because now burghers started to buy more and more objects for their tables as well, even complete services. The service that was given to mr. Cornelis Reinhard Vaillant upon his farewell as governor of Surinam in 1822 is an example. This service is completely preserved.
The royal family however, was never very careful with the service that the City of Amsterdam gave the prince in 1816. Already in 1825 the dinner and soup plates supplied by Diemont were given to Prince Frederik (1797-1881) as a basis of his dowry when he married Louise of Prussia. There were plenty other plates with palmette borders to eat from in the palaces of King William I and II. The monogram of P F was engraved in the plates’ borders.
The heirs of Prince Frederik- his daughter Louise (1828-1871) was married to the Swedish king and mother and grandmother of Danish kings- sold pieces of the service at auction. The last one to do so was another Louise of Prussia (1917-2009) who had her monogram engraved to the reverse of the plates. Other parts of the service of the Prince of Orange were sold at auction by our royal family: for example, a tureen, bowls and dishes that are now in the collections of the Rijksmuseum and the Amsterdam Museum. These tureens were fitted with new handles around 1860. The lion that originally adorned the tureens, was then replaced by intertwined branches.
If we compare the tureen of the service of the Prince of Orange to that of the tureens of the service of Vaillant, another remarkable detail may be noticed. The tureen of the first service is made by Stellingwerff and the stand by Bennewitz; with the Vaillant service this is the other way around. The tureen of the Prince of Orange is supported by a stand with a raised centre. Originally, Stellingwerff made the stands with a lower centre, but apparently, these were replaced. Bennewitz kept these in stock after the service was sold in 1816 and he made accompanying tureens for them that became parts of other services including that of Vaillant. The latter combination is more balanced.
The provenance of the Vaillant service is extremely well documented. Cornelis Reinhard Vaillant (1781-1849) was presented with it upon his farewell as deputy governor-general of the West-Indian properties in 1822. The English planters of the district Nickerie were so pleased with his administration that in a letter to his father they asked him for advice about a gift. They planned to present several pieces of silver and asked him which objects would be most suitable. Father Vaillant could ask his daughter-in-law for advice. In 1823 the entire service is listed on an inventory list of the family: 1 soup Tureen with cover & stand / 4 vegetable dishes with covers, 2 Sauce boats with stands. We may therefore conclude that the service always remained complete and that no items were lost.
The use of the word dish for four covered dishes for vegetables is interesting. In the notebooks of Bonebakker these are always called castrollen, derived from the French word ‘casserole’. In 1898 the service was offered to the Rijksmuseum. Director Pit declined this offer, yet 85 years later parts of the very similar service of William II were acquired for the collection.
The Vaillant dinner service commissioned for Cornelis Reinhard Vaillant in 1822 has been in the family until 1995,
The Prince of Orange service has been in the family until 2008,
Barend J. van Benthem, De Werkmeesters van Bennewitz en Bonebakker, Zwolle 2005, Catalogue descriptions pp. 278-300
M.G. Emeis jr., Bonebakker 1792-1967, Amsterdam 1967, pp. 41,42.
Jan Rudolph de Lorm, Amsterdams goud en zilver, Zwolle/Amsterdam 1999,
cat. nrs. 188, 189, 190.
Hubert Vreeken e.a., Goud en Zilver met Amsterdamse keuren, Amsterdam/Zwolle 2003,
pp. 28-52, cat. nrs. 132, 133, 134.
The service of Vaillant was exhibited in 1998 in the exhibition ‘Egyptomania’ in Museum Boymans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. It was also part of the exhibition ‘Grootzilver’ by Bennewitz & Bonebakker in Museum Willet-Hothuysen in Amsterdam in 2006.