Dutch silver standing salt by Adam van Vianen, estimated at £600,000-800,000 at Sotheby's.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

It was formerly owned by Dutch collector Dr Anton CR Dreesman and was acquired privately from his estate in July 2002.

The 8in (20cm) figure of Flora, with the flat-chased signature ADV conjoined and the date 1621, appears to have been part of a British private collection since the early Victorian period.

Around this time the lining to the bowl was replaced (probably by Johannes Joseph Moonen of Oosterhout, fl.1820-56) and a number of copies were made by London silversmiths Charles Thomas and George Fox, each bearing marks for 1858.

Both the original salt and the copies are engraved with the same unidentified family crest of a pelican feeding her young in a nest (a Pelican in her Piety).

Interest by British antiquaries and enthusiasts in old silver for its historical and artistic value, rather than as useful second-hand plate or merely bullion, was well established. Up to 1775 virtually all the van Vianens’ silver was in Dutch hands, but after then English collectors in particular succeeded in obtaining nearly all the important pieces that came up for sale in Holland.