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Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste

Matthew Boulton (1728-1809)

Candle and perfume vase 1770-71

RCIN 21669

King's Bed Chamber, Windsor Castle

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The support of English manufacturers by George III and Queen Charlotte can be seen as one of the most distinctive and significant aspects of their artistic patronage and Matthew Boulton was one of those who benefited most directly from this interest. Following a three-hour audience with the King and Queen in late February 1770, Boulton received an order for a number of articles, chiefly a new chimney garniture to replace the existing garniture of porcelain vases in the Queen’s Bedroom. The order probably included two pairs of vases of the King’s model and a pair of sphinx vases. All were to be manufactured from Boulton’s ‘or moulu’ - rich gilt bronze of distinctive coppery colour - and from choice and highly polished specimens of Derbyshire fluorspar (blue john), the luxuriously coloured crystalline stone which Boulton made his speciality. As the King’s principal artistic adviser, Sir William Chambers was involved behind the scenes with this entire commission.

A few days after Boulton’s audience with the King and Queen, he was summoned to a breakfast meeting with Chambers to discuss the project, during the course of which Chambers gave him ‘some valuable usefull and acceptable Modells’ and promised an improved design for the foot of the candle vases which he was working up ‘from a sketch of the King’s’. To underline his personal involvement, Chambers exhibited a drawing of ‘Various Vases, &c. to be executed in or moulu, by Mr Boulton, for their Majesties’ in the Royal Academy exhibition of 1770. In their finished appearance, the King’s vases had become a more sophisticated and more thoroughly neo-classical version of the Caryatic vases of c.1770: the ‘Chambers’ features include a pierced entrelac band at the neck, heavily looped laurel swags on the body, and coved fluting, lion-masks, paterae, key-pattern borders and spirally fluted feet for the bases.

Catalogue entry adapted from George III & Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste, London, 2004

Page revisions

  • 26 July 2022

    Initial version