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The Art of Monarchy

A collaboration with BBC Radio 4 to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Matthew Boulton (1728-1809)

Pair of candelabra 1771-72

RCIN 5946

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Matthew Boulton & John Fothergill established a metalwork and luxury ornament manufactory at Soho, Birmingham in 1765, with the intention to apply industrial manufacturing techniques of production to the creation and sale of luxury goods. These were retailed in London, and in 1770 and 1771 he offered a selection of goods for sale at his friend James Christie's auction rooms. Another friend, the King's architect, Sir William Chambers, provided numerous designs for some of the ornaments, including, perhaps, that for the plinth of the 'King's Vase'. Two pairs of this vase-candelabrum, were purchased by George III and Queen Charlotte in 1770, along with a pair of 'Sphinx' vases and a 'King's' clock, following Boulton's three-hour audience with the King and Queen. Boulton's invention was to create a quantity of individually-designed ornaments, each of which could be employed in a wide range of objects. The lid on the 'King's Vase' is similar to that on another vase, and the foot is seen elsewhere. This ingenious system of manufacture, perhaps the finest demonstration of British gilt bronze in the 18th century, was supported by George III and its fashionable, glamorous style, was likewise enjoyed and supported by Queen Charlotte.