The Pleasure of Objects: The Ian & Carolina Irving Collection

The Pleasure of Objects: The Ian & Carolina Irving Collection

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 166. A Pair of George III Gilt Bronze Ice Pails, possibly by Matthew Boulton, circa 1775.

A Pair of George III Gilt Bronze Ice Pails, possibly by Matthew Boulton, circa 1775

Auction Closed

January 30, 06:14 PM GMT


20,000 - 30,000 USD

Lot Details


each with removable parcel-gilt copper liner; one marginally greater in height

height 9 in.; width 11 in.

23 cm; 28 cm

In the initial stages of ormolu production at the Soho Manufactory outside Birmingham in autumn 1769, the M.P. Thomas Pownall (1722-1805) advised Boulton that ice pails derived from contemporary French models were a desirable object to make, based on discussions with those 'who have nothing to do but to copy or invent new modes of luxury and magnificence, and who have lived amongst the French' (Sir Nicholas Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London 2002, p.257). A design for an almost identical model of ice pail survives in the Boulton and Fothergill Pattern Book I, p. 177 (Birmingham City Archives, ill. Goodison p.258 fig.211), with the same guilloche rim above a fluted body with a Vitruvian scroll and acanthus leaf base but with satyr's masks handles rather than ram's heads. The first recorded order for ice pails was a set of five supplied to the Duke and Duchess of Ancaster in 1773, possibly with handles modelled by Francis Eginton in the form of goat's or ram's heads, and further ice pails were supplied in subsequent years to patrons including the Earl Beauchamp, the Countess of Derby, and the Earls of Coventry and Ashburnham. The 1778 Christie and Ansell's auction of Boulton's stock included two ormolu ice pails, both of which failed to meet the reserve.

A pair of ice pails identical to the offered lot with ram's head handles and silvered liners was sold Sotheby's New York, 12-13 April 1996, lot 348, and a single example of this model, now in an American private collection, was sold Sotheby's London, 7 July 1995, lot 7 (illustrated in Goodison, p.260 fig.214). A greater number of ice pails corresponding to the Pattern Book design with satyr's mask handles have survived. These include a single example believed to have been owned by Sir Patrick Thomas, a direct descendant of Boulton, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (M.295&A-1976, illustrated in Goodison, p.258 fig.212-13); a set of four formerly with the London dealer William Redford (illustrated in Nicholas Goodison, Ormolu. The Work of Matthew Boulton, London 1974, plate 63); a single example formerly on the New York art market illustrated in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, Vergoldete Bronzen, Munich 1986, Vol.I p.203 fig. 3.15.5; and a pair sold Sotheby's Paris, 23 June 2021, lot 83 (American private collection).

Matthew Boulton (1728-102) is one of the most important figures in 18th-century English decorative arts, of comparable stature and influence to Thomas Chippendale in furniture and Josiah Wedgwood in ceramics. In 1762 he entered into partnership with John Fothergill and quickly transformed his father’s metalworks in Soho, Birmingham, into the largest factory of silver, ormolu and ormolu-mounted objects in the world, employing almost 800 workers at its peak in the 1770s. A pioneer of proactive marketing, Boulton held four sales of his work at Christie’s in 1770, 1771, 1772 and 1778, and his clientele included both the British gentry and overseas patrons, notably Catherine the Great of Russia.