Lot 10
  • 10

A George III gilt-bronze-mounted Chinese Ge-style bottle vase the mounts circa 1770, possibly by Dominique Jean, the porcelain Qianlong

70,000 - 100,000 GBP
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  • Porcelain, gilt-bronze
  • 49.5cm. high; 1ft. 7½in.
of baluster form, with a foliate entwined reeded rim above a chain mail collar with a ram's mask handle on each side, the foot with piastra motifs above a square base with concave corners with a border cast with guilloche and acanthus leaves, the frieze cast with a wave motif enclosing husks all on a stippled ground; probably formerly with ring -pull handles, the underside with the inventory number in white 11210


Probably acquired by Hugh, 1st Duke of Northumberland (1712-1786), for Northumberland House, London.
Recorded by Helen, 8th Duchess of Northumberland, at Albury House, Surrey in 1930; Thence by descent


Possibly the vase described in the Inventory of the Effects at Northumberland House, London, 1847, p.81, Drawing Room, ‘Ornamental China & Decorative Objects’ (The Archives of the Duke of Northumberland at Alnwick Castle Sy.H.VIII.1.b);

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


In overall good original condition. Exceptional quality bronzes superb model. The gilt-bronze is a little dirty and would benefit from a light clean according to taste. The reeded rim is lacking one leaf mount as visible in both images in the catalogue. There are very minor dents and scratches on the inside of the rim which do not detract from the piece. On the chainmail section of the collar a couple of screws are visible which are ungilded. On the foilate section on the collar there is a tiny crack on one section which is hardly noticeable. The original handles to the vase have been removed and the ram masks now cover this area. The tails or tendril beneath the mask with a small chip to that on the right side as per the catalogue photograph. There are no apparent further damages to the porcelain when the mounts are in place nor do there appear to be any markings to the base of the vase. Overall a rare and beautiful piece in good country-house condition and of an impressive scale.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

On first glance the mounts on this Chinese vase would appear to be French of the Louis XVI period, but a further examination would suggest that these are English mounts in the French taste of the 1770s. There are a number of features that suggest an English manufacture, such as, the modelling of the ram masks and the stylised nature of the chasing to their beards. This, together with some unusual decorative features, such as the chain-link decoration around the neck of the vase and constructional techniques such as the horns being cast integrally with the masks, with decoration to the reverse and the base being in a single piece, further suggest an English manufacture over that of a French bronzier.

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.