It is now believed that the present lot and the following, en suite, formed part of a larger service commissioned for Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843), the sixth son of King George III, from William Collins, circa 1815.
A trade card of 1815 decorated with the Royal Arms of Queen Charlotte and those of the Duke of Sussex records William Collins as 'Glass manufacturer to Her Majesty and the Royal Family. He sells an extensive variety of lustres, Grecian lamps and cut glass of every description, flint, plate and window glass for exportation.'
Until quite recently, very little was known about William Collins and his significance in the history of English glass in the first half of the 19th century. Signed examples of his work have been found and through recent research by Charles Truman it has been possible to follow his close association with the nobility of Regency England.
The earliest reference to Collins appears in the London Gazette of 1801 when he is recorded as a partner with William Perry, the celebrated manufacturer of chandeliers at 227 The Strand. Although the partnership was dissolved a year later, Collins remained at that address until 1852.
It was at about this time that Collins came into contact with Samuel Anness who in 1805 had registered a patent for 'Certain improved methods of preparing various enamel colours and of applying the same, so prepared, to the ornamenting of useful vessels of glass'. Anness was in partnership with Charles Muss (1781-1824), a painter from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who must have been familiar with the work of Thomas Bewick and perhaps that of William Beilby. In 1806 Muss was joined by another friend from Newcastle, the famous artist John 'Mad' Martin. Following his insolvency in 1807, Muss joined William Collins where he worked until his death in 1824. Martin also worked for Collins from 1807 to 1812. Ironically, Martin's famous painting 'Balshazzars Feast which now hangs in the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne - where there is an important collection of Beilby enamelled glass - was bought by Collins in 1821 and hung in a room at his workshop in the Strand. A transparent-enamelled glass version of the painting was suspended in Collin's shop window.
A lamp, formerly at Sacombe Park in Hertfordshire, is signed by Collins and dated 1814. It is decorated with a frieze of scrolls and anthemions which remains a recurring theme in Collin's work. The archives of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle record Collins's extensive commission for Northumberland House in London where he supplied chandeliers and other decorative light fittings between 1822 and 1839.
In recent years a number of smaller tablewares and decorative items which can be definitely attributed to William Collins have emerged at auctions in London and New York. Several are signed 'Patent Enamel', a reference possibly to Anness's original patent of 1805. This comprises cut glass vases decorated in transparent enamels with classical scenes from a suite of six which formed a garniture for the Duke of Sussex. They are cut in the same style as the present lot and match a pair of magnum decanters also with Sussex provenance. A goblet from the Royal Brierley Collection painted with the arms of the Duke and now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, was sold in these Rooms on 3rd March 1998, lot 123. A set of goblets, carafes and wine glasses was recently discovered at the Powell-Cotton Museum, Birchington-on-Sea and a further pair of carafes at Montacute House, Somerset, each decorated with portrait panels of the same style as the present lots. These depict Gods, mythological figures and signs of the Zodiac (see M.Newby (ed.), exhibition catalogue, 'From Palace to Parlour. A celebration of 19th Century British Glass', Wallace Collection, London, 2003, pp.14-15, figs.10-13).
A similar goblet believed to have been made for the Duke of Sussex is in the Durrington Collection (see R.Dodsworth,The Durrington Collection of Rare 17th and 18th Century British Drinking Glasses, p.68, no.58).
We are grateful to Charles Truman for his assistance in cataloguing this lot.
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