The tureen, originally one of a pair, is recorded in the Wickes Ledgers, now at the Victoria and Albert museum, as:
"To 2 Tureens and covers 295oz-2dwt 9s.2d £135. 5s 0d
To 2 soup ladles 24oz-15dwt 5s.2d £4. 4s. 0d
To making £4.4s. 0d
To graving the tureens and ladles £0.18s.0d
The Earl of Milltown's grandfather, Hugh Leeson, had come to Ireland in 1680 to pursue a military career. However, he settled there and made an advantageous marriage to the daughter of one of Dublin's leading aldermen and founded a successful brewery. His grandson, Joseph Leeson was born in 1711. He served as M.P. for Rathcormick for some thirteen years and was Sheriff of the county of Wicklow in 1756. His political service led to his elevation to the peerage as Baron of Russborough, co. Wicklow, in 1756, the year of his shrievalty. In 1760 he was advanced to a viscountcy and then in 1762 he received an earldom. He married three times, his first wife Celia (d.1737), daughter of Francis Leigh of Rathangan, co. Kildare, gave him two sons before her early death. His second marriage was to Anne (d.1766), the daughter of Nathaniel Preston of co. Meath, by whom he had a daughter. His third marriage in his fifty-sixth year was to the daughter of dean of Ardagh, Elizabeth French. She not only bore him two further sons and two daughters but outlived him by some 58 years dying at the age of 100.
The Earl built the Palladian masterpiece Russborough House between 1741 and 1755. His archictect was the German Richard Cassels and no doubt the tureen was commission for use and display in the new dining-room of his palladian seat. The house remained in the family until the death of the 6th earl in 1890 when it passed to a nephew, Sir Edmund Turton, whose widow sold it in 1931. In 1952 the house was bought by Sir Alfred Beit 2nd Bt., to house his celebrated art collection. In 1976 the Alfred Beit Foundation was formed and the house and art collection were given to nation. It was opened to the public in 1978.