This fountain, although altered, is a rare survivor of early French silver. The fountain would have held water and stood on a sideboard, displayed with other pieces of ceremonial silver. The servants would have poured water from it to wash utensils between the courses of a meal.
The fountain must have arrived in England from France before 1698, because an English silversmith made a copy of it in that year. He also created a silver basin for each of the fountains. By 1750, Nathanial Curzon, first Baron Scarsdale, owned the group of two fountains and their basins. In that year, he married Caroline Colyear and had the fountain's cartouche engraved with both of their arms. Until the 1940s, these vessels stood in an alcove in the dining room of the Scarsdales' great home, Kedleston Hall, in Derbyshire, England, designed by Robert Adam.
Very little French silver has survived from the late 1600s because almost all of it was melted down by 1701 at the order of Louis XIV. The silver bullion was used to replenish the French royal treasury, which had been nearly bankrupted by the king's constant wars. This vessel survived because it left France soon after it was made.