This vase commemorates the allied victory over the French army at Vitoria in northern Spain on 21st June 1813. The allied forces, including British, Spanish, Portuguese and Hanoverian soldiers were under the command Arthur Wellesley, who at the time was General The Most Hon. The Marquess of Wellington (he became the 1st Duke of Wellington in May 1814). The truly decisive victory at Vitoria was a turning point in the Peninsula Wars, triggering the collapse of Napoleonic rule in Spain. The French army was led by Marshal Jean-Baptiste Jourdan and by Joseph-Napoleon Bonaparte,¹ who narrowly escaped capture. In his dispatch to the Secretary of War, Earl Bathurst, dated 22nd June 1813, Wellington wrote “We accordingly attacked the enemy yesterday, and I am happy to inform your lordship that the allied army, under my command, gained a compleat victory; having driven them from all their positions, having taken from them one hundred and fifty-one pieces of cannon, four hundred and fifteen waggons of ammunition, all their baggage, provisions, cattle, treasure, &c. and a considerable number of prisoners”.²
The detailed depiction of the battle of Vitoria on this vase suggests a military recipient, and there are strong parallels between this vase and other Berlin porcelain produced shortly after the end of the Napoleonic wars for military commanders. Just a few months after Napoleon’s final defeat at Waterloo on 5th October 1815, Friedrich Wilhelm III, King of Prussia, ordered his porcelain factory in Berlin to produce six military-related dinner-services to be given as gifts to his military commanders. Three of these commanders were prioritised, both in terms of the components of their services and the delivery dates of their services. Priority was given to military achievement rather than social rank and it is clear that porcelain was being used as a form of military accolade and decoration.³ Some of the services were decorated with detailed scenes of the battles which the commanders had been involved in, and the factory took great care to render the scenes as accurately as possible, even consulting the recipients on aspects of historical detail.4 These commissions were followed by the Duke of Wellington’s “Prussian Service”, the most extensive and elaborate of all the services produced at this time, which was given to the Duke in recognition of his supreme contribution to the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte. The form5 of the present vase and the depiction of the battle of Vitoria both suggest that it was designed to reflect the military achievements of its recipient, and it parallels the vases in Wellington’s “Prussian Service” and the six services for the Prussian commanders.
Wellington’s service was preceded by gifts of porcelain from the Prussian King to fourteen other British people of high rank.6 This large delivery of porcelain to London was sent in 32 crates via Hamburg in June 1818 and it is described in a letter from the Prussian Foreign Ministry as gifts from the King for several outstanding individuals of the “britischen Hofs und Ministerii”.7 In 1819 “Herzog von Cumberland” is also recorded in the King’s order account book, and five further names are listed under the year 1820, including the Duke of Wellington’s.8 Although it was previously thought that the present vase could have been part of these shipments, the forms of the vases which were sent do not correspond to the form of this vase, and with the exception of Wellington, the recipients were not soldiers who fought at Vitoria. A shipment before 1818 is not recorded, but significant gaps in the KPM-Archiv records in Berlin between 1803 and 1818 put establishing this tantalisingly out of reach for the moment. An earlier shipment must have been made, and the records in Berlin for the shipment or shipments must have been lost, as it seems unlikely that the Prussian King would despatch porcelain to important members of the court and the government, but omit to send porcelain to the military commanders who were responsible for the victories. The generals who had played important roles in battles would presumably have been prioritised over members of the government and court, as was the case with the six services for the Prussian commanders.
Of the possible recipients who would be worthy of such an extraordinary gift celebrating the victory at Vitoria, the achievements of three were the most highly regarded; the Duke of Wellington, Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Graham and Lieutenant-General Sir Rowland Hill. It seems most probable that it was one of these three who would have been sent the present vase. These three were honoured with gifts by the Court of Common Council of the City of London which was held on 12th July 1813 specifically “for the purpose of voting thanks, &c. to Field Marshal Wellington, and the army serving under him, for their brilliant achievement at the battle of Vittoria”.? There is no known record of the Duke of Wellington receiving porcelain gifts from Prussia before the arrival of his monumental dinner-service in 1819, so it seems that the most probable recipient of the present vase was either Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Graham or Lieutenant-General Sir Rowland Hill.
The factory used an 1814 aquatint “Victory of Vittoria” by F.C. Lewis, etched by H. Moses, as the source for the principal battle scene on this vase.¹° Sections of the aquatint have been omitted in order to make the scene fit the continuous format of the vase, and a tree has been inserted (adjacent to one of the handles) to aid the conversion of the print into a continual scene. Similar adaptations took place on the two vases in the Duke of Wellington’s “Prussian Service”, which depict the battles of Vitoria and Waterloo. The group of generals on horseback, centred by Wellington, do not appear on Lewis’s print, and it is not yet known if this group was based a source which has yet to come to light, or whether it was the creation of the artist who painted the vase. The latter seems more probable as although the central figure is clearly identifiable as Wellington, the depictions of the generals do not appear to correspond with anyone in particular, and three of them appear to have the same face. Wellington is erroneously depicted on a white stallion rather than a chestnut-coloured stallion, and his uniform and saddle-cloth are both incorrect and too elaborate.¹¹ The uniforms of the generals surrounding him are also not quite correct, and it seems that the factory did not have accurate source material to work from. Although the ice-pails and wine-coolers in the Duke of Wellington’s “Prussian Service” do, on the whole, represent the uniforms of the soldiers who served under Wellington accurately, this information did not reach Berlin until after the present vase was created.¹²
1. The elder brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Emperor had made his brother King of Naples and Sicily (1806–1808), and then later King of Spain (1808–1813, as José I).
2. Theophilus Camden, History of the Present War in Spain and Portugal, From its Commencement to the Battle of Vittoria, London, 1813, pp. 495-496.
3. The three services for the King’s infantry generals included centrepieces and arrived first; the first two in November 1817 and the third in January 1818. The three services for Prince August, Prince Wilhelm and Prince Hessen-Homburg did not include centrepieces and were delivered later.
4. See Winfried Baer and Ilse Baer, The Prussian Service, The Duke of Wellington’s Berlin Dinner Service 1817-1819, Exhibition Catalogue, Schloß Charlottenburg, Berlin, 19 September – 27 November 1988, Berlin, 1989, pp. 11-12.
5. This form of vase is thought to have been developed in July 1816 in connection with the services for the Prussian military commanders; see Winfried Baer and Ilse Baer, ibid., p. 21. The model is described in the manufactory records as “Vase mit glattem gebogenen Henkel am Kessel oder Untersatz oben mit übergelegtem Rand”. It has been suggested that the form was designed by the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, but whether this is actually the case is unclear.
6. This is recorded in the Conto-Buch Sr. Majestät des Königs, which was the King’s order account book. It records that porcelain had been sent to “Earl Bathurst, An den Marquis of Hertfort, An den Viscount und Lady Catlereagh, An den Earl of Liverpool, An den Marquis Cholmondeley, An den Viscount Melville, An den Duke of Montrohe, An den right honorable Vanhittart, An Lady Elgin, An Mrs: Smith, An den Lieutenant=General Hammond, An den Doctor Mr: Cooke : Oxford, An Earl Mulgrave, An Mr: Herries Commiss of the Goverment". We are indebted to Dr. Samuel Wittwer, Direktor der Schlösser und Sammlungen, Stiftung Preußische Schlösser und Gärten, Berlin-Brandenburg for kindly providing this information, and the information in note 8.
7. Immediatbestellungen, 13th June 1818, cited by Winfried Baer and Ilse Baer, ibid., p. 15 and p. 43, note 21.
8. The porcelain was for the “Erzbischof von Canterbury, Für Hrn: Wilberforce, Für Hrn: Harrison, Für Hrn: Rothschild" and for “Herzog von Wellington”. The Duke of Wellington’s entry refers to his service, which had only just been shipped at the end of November 1819.
9. Theophilus Camden, ibid., 1813, pp. 509-510. The commanders, officers and private soldiers, both of the British army and the Spanish and Portuguese forces who served under Wellington were publically thanked, and it was proposed that a bust of the Marquis of Wellington should be erected, “a gold box, of the value of one hundred guineas” was to be given to Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Graham and the freedom of the City of London “together with a sword, of the value of one hundred guineas” was to be presented to lieutenant-general sir Rowland Hill. The other generals who were publically thanked were “lieutenant-general the earl of Dalhousie, lieutenant-general sir T. Picton, lieutenant-general sir G.L. Cole, and Lieutenant-general the honourable W. Stewart”, and also “major-general G. Baron Bock, major-general C. Baron Alten, major-general the honourable C. Colville, major-general G. Anson, major-general J. Oswald, major-general J.O. Vandeleur, major-general G. Murray, major-general F.P. Robinson, major-general Lord Aylmer”.
10. Lewis’s aquatint is after the painting by J.M. Wright at Blenheim Palace. The aquatint is no longer in the manufactory archives. W. and I. Baer, ibid., p. 27, suggest the Prussian Embassy in London probably helped to procure source material, as the majority of contemporary prints of battles were published in London.
11. Wellington preferred not to fight in full uniform, opting for more low-key dress, which in fact singled him out as being very different from the other soldiers around him, and made him a prime target for snipers.
12. As late as July 1818 Friedrich Philipp Rosenstiel, the director of the factory, was still waiting for detailed illustrations of British uniforms for inclusion on Wellington’s service, writing to the Minister of War that “Zeichnungen der Uniformen von den unter des Hr. Herzogs Befehlen stehenden Truppen werden mit großer Sehnsucht erwartet” (Drawings of the uniforms of the troops commanded by Mr Duke are greatly anticipated), and two days later he wrote “regarding the service for the Duke of Wellington, I ordered the urgent reminder to send a detailed Directory of all troops who are commanded by the Duke from the allied troops of France, and drawings of their uniforms”. These extracts from Rosenstiel’s letters (of 8th and 10th July 1818) are cited by W. and I. Baer, ibid., pp. 16-17. The Prussian Minister of War was Major-General Leopold Hermann von Boyen, who had placed the order for Wellington’s “Prussian Service” in 1817 and for the six services for the Prussian commanders two years earlier.