When Sunnylands Center & Gardens opens to the public on March 1, 2012, several significant pieces of silver-gilt from the collection of Ambassadors Walter and Leonore Annenberg will be on exhibition. The couple established The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands and Sunnylands Center & Gardens as both a high-level retreat center and a public museum. Each year a changing exhibition pertinent to the history of Sunnylands will be featured at the Center. The current exhibition includes examples of utilitarian and decorative silver-gilt objects including examples of Georgian, Regency, and early Victorian English pieces that date from 1739 through 1843.
The artistry of English silver-making reached its greatest height between the 18th and early 19th centuries. Royal and aristocratic families filled their homes with prestigious objects as symbols of wealth and status. The term silver-gilt indicates that a solid silver object has been coated or gilded with a thin layer of gold, resulting in an incomparably lustrous finish.
Leonore and Walter Annenberg began collecting silver-gilt in 1959 with the purchase of a pair of early Victorian wine coolers. They continued collecting for three decades, making their final purchase in 1988. Their collection was meant for both display and personal use.
In partnership with the Rancho Mirage Public Library, The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands will present a free lecture on Thursday, March 22, 2012 at 2:00 pm featuring Timothy Schroder, a world-renowned authority on silver-gilt. Schroder is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a member of the London Diocesan Advisory Committee, and a member of the Court of Assistants of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. Formerly Curator of the Decorative Arts at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, he returned to England to establish his own consulting work in antiquities, specializing in antique silver. He has published several books and numerous articles.