A pair of Victorian silver salts in the form of the British Museum Lion, Daniel & Charles Houle, London, 1872
- 7.5cm, 3in high
These salts are copies of the British Museum Lion which was modelled by the renowned 19th century sculptor Alfred Stevens (1817-75) in 1852. After the main gates and railings of the British Museum were installed in May 1852 a second lower set of railings was erected outside to mark the museum's boundary. These lower railings were ornamented at intervals with twenty-five cast iron lions. It is thought that Stevens' inspiration for this regal and much admired pose may have come from a particularly impressive cat belonging to one of his friends.
In 1895 the lower railing was dismantled and the lions were dispersed. Some of the railings, complete with twelve lions, were later installed in St Paul's Cathedral around the Wellington Monument, which Stevens had designed in 1856. From 1896 onwards, the Covent Garden firm of Messrs D. Brucciani & Co. made bronze casts of Stevens' lions, which were sold for 7s. 6d. each. Other variants were produced in earthenware by the Manchester firm of Pilkington's Tile and Pottery Company between 1899-1900, and by Carter & Co., of Poole, Dorset, during the early 1900s. These silver examples significantly earlier than most known variants and were possibly made to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Stevens' original version.