By Bill Davis
Included in The Johnston Collection is an important English light baluster goblet engraved by Jacob Sang, the most notable of the Dutch wheel engravers of the 18th century. The importance of the goblet was not realised initially. John Rogan, who, in 1975, was preparing for the publication of his book, Antiques in Australia from Private Collections, considered that the signature of the engraver on its foot was possibly that of Andreas Friedrich Sang and not that of Jacob Sang.
In 2000, Hugh Tait visited the Collection. Hugh, a glass expert, was Deputy Keeper of the Department of Medieval and Later Antiquities at The British Museum when he retired in 1992. Hugh identified the engraver of the goblet as Jacob Sang, and confirmed that the goblet was not recorded in the literature on Sang and as such was an important discovery.
The goblet is shown here. It is finely wheel engraved with a scene of a plantation completely encircling the bowl. The scene comprises a manor house with a number of plantation buildings, orchards, fields, farm animals and plantation workers. The bowl is also inscribed: ‘HET GROEYEN BLOEYEN VAN DE PLANTAGIE. CORNELIUS BURG’ (Growing and Blooming of the Plantation. Cornelius Burg). The goblet is signed under the foot: ‘J. Sang’ and dated 1770.
Unfortunately, Hugh was unable to complete any further research. Last year I completed a study of the goblet and my findings were published in the November issue of the Glass Circle News of The English Glass Circle. A copy of this publication is in The Johnston Collection library.
I forwarded photographs of the goblet to Dr Anna Lameris in Amsterdam. Dr Lameris is a recognised authority on Jacob Sang. Without being able to handle the goblet, she believes that the signature, although a rare form, is probably that of Jacob Sang.
As there are two goblets recorded with engraved scenes of plantations in 18th century Dutch Surinam, it is likely that the scene on the Collection’s goblet is also of such a plantation. A search of The National Archives in The Hague did not show any plantation in Surinam owned by Cornelius Burg at that time. However, Dr Eveline Sint Nicolaas, Curator, Department of History, Rijksmuseum, has advised that “Cornelius Burg” should be read as one word, and in the Surinam Almanac of 1793, Corneliusburg is listed as a coffee plantation on the Warappakreek in Paramaribo. Dr Sint Nicolaas also advised that plantations were often named after the wife or daughter of the owner. A further search of the Surinam plantations of 1770 revealed that there was a Cornelia plantation on the Warappakreek. It seems reasonable, therefore, to conclude that the engraving on the Collection goblet is of the Cornelia plantation in Surinam.
Little is known of Sang’s life. He came to live in Amsterdam from Germany in the 1740’s and died in Nigtevegt near Amsterdam in 1786. He was a prolific engraver of English goblets. The subject of his engravings covered a wide field including portraits, armorials, classical and architectural subjects, decorative designs and ships which he depicted in fine detail.
EDITORS NOTE: An exhibition to see in relation to our Sang glass is Kings over the water currently on display at the NGV. Kings over the water explores the fascinating hidden symbolism of beautiful engraved Stuart period glasses, created as part of a doomed political adventure whose tragic history continues to cast a romantic spell even today. The NGV possesses an extensive and important collection of these rare glasses, many of them generous gifts from the Morgan family of Melbourne.
This article was first published in fairhall, Issue 9, July 2013, pp19