Presentation vase, 'The Cooper Vase', silver / electroplate/ ruby glass, engraved armorials of Sir Daniel Cooper and his wife Elizabeth Hill, attributed to Hunt & Roskell, London, England, 1853
This vase was presented in 1853 to Sir Daniel Cooper, one of the directors of the Bank of NSW, to commemorate the bank's success the year before. The extraordinary profit was due largely to the discovery of gold in New South Wales in 1851.
When presented, the vase contained flowers made of feathers by the nuns of Valparaiso (on the coast of Chile), and was placed under a glass dome. The vase was supplied by the Sydney firm of Brush and MacDonnell, and the original inscription on the plinth read: "Presented to Daniel Cooper, Jun, Esq, one of the Six directors of the bank of New South Wales, by the unanimous vote of the Proprietors, on January 20th, 1853, in acknowledgement of the unprecedented success of the Bank under the able management of the Board of Directors during the previous twelve months".
When the vase was placed on show in the George Street rooms of its retailer in April 1854, it was applauded by the press. A weekly illustrated journal printed a drawing of the vase, and there was a viewing day for journalists, who described the vase in glowing terms. It was "the most beautiful specimen of silversmith's work ever seen in the colony"; the design was described as " a rustic pattern of vine stems, leaves and fruit", while the ruby glass liner was admired for its "richness of colour" (The Illustrated Sydney News, 22 April 1854). The massive vase in the rococo revival style combined with Victorian naturalism was quite unlike any designs imported from England at the time. Its design is almost identical to several vases in European and American collections, at least one of which was made by John S Hunt in 1846 for London silversmiths Hunt & Roskell.
Daniel Cooper Junior was born in Lancashire in 1821 and came to Sydney with his parents. As an adult, he became closely associated with the mercantile life of Sydney, and in 1847 he joined the Board of the Bank of New South Wales. The Bank (established in 1817 in Sydney) was the first bank in Australia; after surviving several crises in the fast developing colony, it was reconstituted in 1850 and entered a period of great prosperity, culminating in the 'unprecedented success' of the year to January 1853, the date inscribed on the vase. Daniel Cooper's assistance was acknowledged in 'munificent style', as one newspaper expressed it.
In 1857 Daniel Cooper was knighted by patent; he returned to England in 1861 and in 1863 was created first Baronet of Woollahra. At some time after 1861, the original inscription on the vase was erased and the present armorial engraved in its place. Sir Daniel did not afterwards reside permanently in New South Wales and died at his home in Kensington in 1902.
Eva Czernis-Ryl, 2007