Provenance & Patina: Important English Furniture from a West Coast Collection

Provenance & Patina: Important English Furniture from a West Coast Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 1077. A Pair of George III Ormolu and Blue John Candle Vases by Matthew Boulton and John Fothergill, Circa 1770.

A Pair of George III Ormolu and Blue John Candle Vases by Matthew Boulton and John Fothergill, Circa 1770

Auction Closed

June 18, 08:33 PM GMT


30,000 - 50,000 USD

Lot Details


each surmounted by a removable lid with gadrooned finial above an acanthus-cast spreading domed base, the top reversing to form a baluster-shaped fluted and stiff-leaf nozzle, the ovoid body with a foliate-wrapped rim flanked by looped handles cast with acanthus, above a stiff-leaf cradle and spreading socle with laurel collar and stepped square base, on ball feet

height 6 ¾ in.; width 4 ½ in.; depth 2 ¾ in.

17.1 cm; 11.4 cm; 6.9cm

Philip Gell of Hopton Hall, Derbyshire;

Mrs A.E. Gell; sold Sotheby's, London, 11 April 1975, lot 41;

The Collection of Sir Nicholas Goodison, Christie's, London, 25 May 2022, lot 106.

N. Goodison, Ormolu: The Work of Matthew Boulton, London, 1974, pp. 148, 152, pl. 142.

N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London, 2002, pp. 302-6, pl. 274.

London, Hotspur, Golden Jubilee Exhibition, 1974, pl. 27.

Birmingham, City Art Gallery, Matthew Boulton: Selling what the World Desires, 2009, Cat. 171, p. 178.

London, Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths, Goldsmiths Hall, Gold: Power and Allure, 2012.

These candle-vases are of a reversible form also known as ‘cassolettes’: each has a candle nozzle that can be used as a candlestick, but when turned upside-down, these fit within the body of the vase and so are hidden away under the decorative gilt-bronze lid, creating the illusion of a typical lidded vase. This model, of an egg shape with handles that form spreading leaves, is based on drawing 859 in the first of Boulton’s Pattern Books1 – Richard Bentley, who was in charge of the manufacture of gilt bronze in Boulton’s workshop, cross-references this number when he recorded in 1782 that he had “1 pair vases 859 blue john bodies ready to gild”.2 This model appears to have been popular, since numerous extant examples exist in both blue john and marble. In the last few years, several have appeared at auction, including at Sotheby’s London, 17 May 2022, lot 50, and at Christie’s London, Apter-Fredericks: 75 Years of Important English Furniture, 19 January 2021, lot 11.

These vases have passed through the hands of two important collectors since the mid-twentieth century: Aileen Gell née Maunsell and Nicholas Goodison. Aileen Maunsell was born in 1895 in Darjeeling to Major George William Maunsell, and later married into the storied Gell family in 1920. She had a collection of blue john that sold in a Sotheby’s sale in 1975, including a “pastille burner” that was the same model as the pair supplied to George III, now in the Royal Collection (RCIN 21668). They then later entered the collection of the important furniture historian Sir Nicholas Goodison (1934 – 2021) whose publications remain some of the most important reference works on Matthew Boulton. He was a connoisseur of art history, the classics and choral music, and held various prestigious positions in the art world throughout his life including Chairman of the Courtauld Institute of Art, Chairman of the Art Fund, Vice-President of English National Opera and as President of the Furniture History Society. His primary occupation was in the world of finance, and his leadership of the London Stock Exchange in the 1980s ushered in the transformative ‘big bang’ in the financial markets in 1986.

1 Nicholas Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London, 2002, p. 304 fig. 275.

2 Ibid., p. 284.