Pair of coloured crayfish salts, pale pink edged scallop shells surrounded by sea shells and marine plants resting on rockwork base applied with shellfish and coloured crayfish.One faces right and the other faces left.
Nicholas Sprimont had worked in London as a goldsmith for only a brief period before founding the Chelsea factory and he continued to employ his skills as a designer in his new role. The early wares of the Chelsea factory drew on designs that Sprimont had used as a goldsmith – sauceboats with swags of flowers, shell-shaped dishes which closely resembled the stands for the sauceboats supplied to the Prince of Wales the ‘goat and bee’ jugs which had direct silver equivalents, and these salts which were one of the factory’s most popular designs. This pair of salts relates directly in design to the silver-gilt salts he created in 1743 for Frederick, Prince of Wales (RCIN 51393), which in turn depend upon an engraving by Juste-Aurele Meissonnier.
The choice of porcelain for salt cellars was nothing new. As early as 1727 Mary Delany (1700-88), a companion to Lady Stanley, had sent her sister a pair of ceramic salt cellars – noting in her letter that ‘you may think old fashion, but it is the new mode and all saltsellers are now made in that manner’. At this date they cannot have been English porcelain but her comment shows the demand for such pieces. The sale catalogues of Chelsea wares from the 1750s record dozens of pairs of crayfish salts in both white and polychrome versions, and Horace Walpole is known to have owned a white pair, which were sold at the Strawberry Hill sale in 1842.