A George III gilt-bronze-mounted Chinese Ge-style bottle vase the mounts circa 1770, possibly by Dominique Jean, the porcelain Qianlong
- Porcelain, gilt-bronze
- 49.5cm. high; 1ft. 7½in.
Recorded by Helen, 8th Duchess of Northumberland, at Albury House, Surrey in 1930; Thence by descent
1 fine Cracklin China Jar mounted in Ormolu
Possibly the vase described in the Inventory of 2 Grosvenor Place, London, 1892, p.19, Large Back Drawing Room, (Alnwick Castle Sy.F.XVII.3.a);
A Chinese crackle Vase, Grey, mounted with Goat's Head handles Rim & foot of Ormolu - 19in high
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NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."
Their influence is undeniably French, and is in the manner of one of the leading French bronziers of the Louis XVI period, Pierre Gouthière, an example of whose work can be seen in the Louvre in Paris where a serpentine marble vase is mounted with ram masks and illustrated by D. Alcouffe, A. Dion-Tennenbaum and G. Mabille, Gilt bronzes in the Louvre, Dijon, 2004, no. 121, p. 242. The use of the crackle-glazed Chinese porcelain would also be unusual for French manufacture of this date as the taste for such porcelains was much more focused in the Louis XV period of the mid-eighteenth century where one finds such pieces with swirling rococo mounts. By Louis XVI’s reign the taste is for incised wares, monochromes and famille verte together with ceramics from Sèvres. This further suggests that the mounts are more likely to be an English interpretation of the French models which were difficult to import from pre-revolutionary France owing to continuing wars and trade disputes.
Little is recorded about English metal-workers prior to the obnoxious claims of Matthew Boulton in the early 1770s to have first introduced the manufacture of ormolu ornaments to England. Indeed we can see that there was a substantial business in the making of mounts for furniture, doors and architectural fitments of fine quality long before Mr Boulton announced his arrival. Unfortunately these makers are less well known and with the lack of recognition and guild system as adopted across the Channel, there are few records. It must be recognised though that there was a significant production in both London and Soho, Birmingham, where in 1770 there were in excess of thirty-three brass-founders. Amongst these one of the most notable was Thomas Blockley (1708-1788), supplier of a wide range of metal fittings including door furniture in gilt-metal supplied to The Earl of Coventry for Croome Court and his son who supplied pieces to Edwin Lascelles at Harewood House, Yorkshire. Nicholas Goodison suggests that Blockley could possibly be the otherwise untraced ‘Mr. Bermingham’ or ‘Brimingham’ who supplied gilt ornaments for doors and shutters in the Drawing Room of Syon House in 1766-7 (see N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London 2002, p. 34). A further metal worker linked to the Northumberland family is Diederich Nicholaus Anderson, a Dane who worked for the 1st Duke and Duchess in their refurbishment of Syon House in the late 1760s supplying borders for tables and the medals for the Drawing Room doors. Anderson is also recognised as producing a number of neoclassic ornaments including a plate warmer bearing his signature at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire and is accredited with the tripods to a design by James Stuart now in the collection of the Earl Spencer at Althorp.
The mounts on the current lot however are related to the ram mask mounts on a commode attributed to the French émigré cabinet-maker Pierre Langlois, working in conjunction with the French mount-maker Dominique Jean, whose workshops were very close together, (fig.1). The commode is in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge and is illustrated in N. Goodison, op.cit., fig. 6, p. 35. The chasing to the masks has a similar treatment which may also be compared to the ram masks on the Harrington Commode, which was attributed to Thomas Chippendale and sold in these Rooms, 6th December 2010, lot 69. Both these commodes date to the later part of the 1760s or early 1770s. Interestingly, the 1st Duke of Northumberland is a recorded client of Pierre Langlois and also of John Linnell, who is also thought to have used the mounts produced by Jean, based on the mounts on the library desk at Osterley, Middlesex. Both these cabinet makers have pieces attributed to them that remain in the Northumberland Collection.
Dominique Jean is recorded near Windmill Street, Tottenham Court Road, London as an ormolu maker between 1764 and 1807 and is also recorded in the Royal Household accounts as Jean Dominique of Marshall Street as a gilder and founder between 1793 and 1795. He was undoubtedly an important supplier of high quality furniture mounts to the leading London cabinet-makers of the day. He married the daughter of Langlois, Marie Françoise on 20th October 1764 and thereafter seems to have supplied his father-in-law and took on his brother-in-law, Daniel, as an apprentice in 1771. His work was not solely confined to supplying cabinet-makers and he supplied clients his ormolu wares directly. In 1783 he supplied a pair of five-branch chandeliers with figures and trophies to George, Prince of Wales for Carlton House at a cost of £320 (see G. Beard and C. Gilbert, The Dictionary of English Furniture Markers, 1660-1840, Leeds, 1986, p. 482).
Given the association of the Duke of Northumberland with both Langlois and Linnell and the connections between these cabinet-makers and Dominique Jean, there is a strong possibility that the current vase may well have come from Jean’s foundry. Furthermore, given Jean’s French background, he would have been only too aware of the fashion in Paris for such mounted porcelain and such items may well have formed part of the mysterious world of the gilt-metal workers' output in London.