In July 2014 East Ayrshire Leisure Trust, on behalf of
Ayrshire Council, acquired one of the most important remaining artefacts relating to the Eglinton Tournament of 1839 - a silver-gilt statuette of the 13th Earl of Eglinton and his horse in their full Tournament armour.
A funding package was secured by a group including East Ayrshire Leisure, The National Fund for Acquisitions, The Art Fund, The Barcapel Foundation and the Kyle and Carrick Civic Society after the owner had indicated that the statue may be sold to the U.S.
The statuette, measuring 44cm, is all that remains of the 'Glasgow Eglinton Memorial', a decorative candelabrum which was given to the 13th Earl by 300 citizens of Glasgow in appreciation of his efforts to put on the event. It is believed that the rest of the candelabrum was melted down sometime after it was sold from the estate in 1922, but that the statue was saved. It is beautifully and intricately modelled and was produced by silversmiths in Glasgow and London.
The statuette contains a number of interesting and noteworthy features.
It can be most closely compared to the magnificent
Trophy, which was considered to be the most important piece of silverware in Scotland at the time of its presentation in 1843. The Eglinton Trophy was given to the 13th Earl by his friends and admirers in thanks of his efforts in staging the Tournament. It was designed by Edmund Cotterill, of R&S Garrards of London, and took 4 years to complete.
However, the statuette here is hallmarked for 1840, 3
earlier, and was produced by Benjamin Smith III of London, apparently in partnership with D.C Rait of Glasgow.
Smith's statuette has some clear differences to
Both clearly show the Eglinton coat of arms of the horse's rear flank, but above the forelegs Cotterill's wyvern faces forwards, whilst Smith's faces to the rear. On Cotterill's helmet is a well-modelled, seated, winged wyvern, and on Smith's a grotesque head with none of the body. However, Smith's lance is clearly an accurate model of a grooved design which was used at the Tournament, whilst Cotterill's is smooth and more robust.
The most accurate images of the Tournament are considered
be the watercolours by Nixon, and Cotterill's modelling is very close to these images. Whilst Nixon drew these first-hand they were not published until 1843, but as the committee that commissioned the Trophy included the Marquess of Londonderry, it is entirely possible Cotterill had access to these works to get the detail he needed. Given the speed with which Smith's model was produced (within a year), it may be that he was using other, less accurate, sources.
The statue, and a selection of watercolours and shields,
will be on public display at the Dick Institute (South Museum) from Thursday 28th August (Tue - Sat 11am - 5pm) to commemorate the 175th Anniversary of the Eglinton Tournament.