This pair of large tureens with stands probably formed part of a sumptuous silver table service. Designed to hold a rich stew of meat or fish and vegetables, the lids reflect their original contents, which, according to a contemporary, "perfectly imitated nature." The small crabs, prawns, and crayfish were cast from wax molds of dead shellfish. The realism of such details appealed to patrons in the mid-1700s, some of whom were amateur scientists and collectors of natural curiosities.
The stands and liners are engraved with the arms of the British aristocrat Robert, first Lord Carrington. The arms were engraved in England late in the 1700s, effacing the heraldry of their original owner, a Portuguese archbishop. The cross of the Portuguese Order of Christ and the tassels of the archbishop's hat are still visible. They were left in place by an English silversmith who was probably unaware of their meaning.