Matthew Boulton (d. 1802) established his manufactory in Soho, Birmingham and began his celebrated partnership with John Fothergill (d. 1782) in 1762. Following the establishment of their ormolu manufactures in the late 1760s, they were patronised by George III and Queen Charlotte, while Christie & Ansell's Pall Mall Rooms provided them with access to London's fashionable clientèle, and auctions were held there in April 1770, 1771 and 1778 of the 'superb and elegant produce Of Messrs Boulton and Fothergill's Or moulu Manufactory, At Soho, in Staffordshire; consisting of A variety of most beautiful and rich articles, comprehending vases of exquisite shapes, clock-cases, candle-branches, essence pots, and many other ornaments'. Indeed, Empress Catherine of Russia is reported to have considered their wares in 1772 to be 'Superior in every respect to the French'.
The design of this pair of vases relates to a sketch in Boulton's Pattern Book I, p. 124, no. 1241. They are designed to show off the highly figured blue john, with decorative satyr masks on their handles. A pair of the same model is illustrated in N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London, 2002, pp. 310-311, figs. 293-295.