This superb ormolu-mounted Chinese sang-de-boeuf vase is almost certainly the one recorded in the 1892 inventory for Harewood House, Yorkshire, in the south end of the Gallery:
‘A Bottle shaped vase with long neck of Chinese porcelain covered with purple splashed sang de boeuf glaze with ormolu base, rim, stopper and handles of the Empire Style. H. 21 ½ inches’. (1)
The ormolu description ‘Empire Style’ possibly acknowledging its French inspiration although in fact it is of English manufacture and Regency. The Gallery was the glorious culmination to the parade of rooms on the piano nobile, designed by Robert Adam (1728-92) for Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood (1713-95), in the mid-1760s, and as such it was the most impressive, displaying an ‘exceptional degree of costly enrichment’. (2) In the earliest guide book to Harewood House, dated 1819, John Jewell described this magnificent room as:
‘This room extends over the whole west end of the house, and is seventy-six feet six inches, by twenty-four feet three inches, twenty-one feet three inches high; it is truly elegant, and presents such a show of magnificence and art, as eye hath seldom seen, and words cannot describe’. (3)
The porcelain collection of the Earls of Harewood was considered one of the finest in England, and still includes a significant amount of ormolu-mounted Chinese porcelain, much of it displayed today as it was in the late-19th century in the Gallery. An 1838 inventory, 'List of China, Harewood House, London', which itemised porcelain transferred from Harewood House, Hanover Square (formerly Roxburghe House) to Harewood House, Yorkshire, shows the extent of the collection. Some of this was sold at Christie's, London, 1 July 1965, and a Louis XV clair-de-lune porcelain vase with ormolu mounts attributed to Jean-Claude Chambellan Duplessis from the Harewood collection sold at Christie's, London, 5 July 2012, lot 29 (£1,161,250 British pounds inc. premium). (4)
While not documented, it is likely that this vase was acquired by Edward, Viscount Lascelles (circa 1767-1814), the eldest son and heir of Edward Lascelles, 1st Earl of Harewood (1740-1820). Known as 'Beau' for his physical resemblance to the Prince of Wales, his reputation as a collector was already recognised during his lifetime, with a contemporary diarist writing, 'Young Mr. Lascelles has a taste for the arts'. (5) ‘Beau’ Lascelles patronised the London antique dealer, Robert Fogg of Golden Square and Regent Street buying Chinese and Sèvres porcelain including, on 28 December 1807, ‘a pair of purple Enameld Jars Mounted’ for £42. (6) While these were undoubtedly Chinese they are unlikely to be the present vase, which is made of sang-de-boeuf porcelain slashed with streaks of purple. Fogg, who described himself as 'Chinaman to the Prince Regent' was one of the pre-eminent antique dealers of the Regency period. He supplied a number of prestigious clients, including, in 1822, George IV with two 12 foot Pagodas comprised of Chinese porcelain plaques at a cost of £420 for Brighton Pavilion, and in July 1814, the antiquarian, William Beckford (1760-1844), with 'sea-green bottles incredibly decorated with bronze'. In 1837, the diarist, Thomas Raikes (d. 1848) remarked upon the 'finest collection of old china in England' in the Hanover Square property of Lord Harewood that 'Fogg, the chinaman has in vain offered Lord Harewood immense sums' but which having belonged to ‘Beau’ Lascelles, was retained by the family as a souvenir of him. (7)
A further possibility is that this vase was acquired by the 1st Earl of Harewood, who was furnishing Harewood House in Yorkshire, and Roxburghe House (later named Harewood House) in Hanover Square. There are entries in the 1st Earl's personal accounts that show that Fogg was supplying 'China Wares', including on 8 April 1801, 'To paid Fogg for Glass & China Wares' (8), and in 1810, the accounts reveal that the 1st Earl spent an astonishing £1,400 with Fogg. (9)
'Maker to his Majesty': A Vulliamy Commission at Harewood House
The design and production of the ormolu mounts is attributed to the Pall Mall firm of Vulliamy & Son, based on their similarity to those on a pair of ormolu-mounted celadon vases in the Royal Collection, supplied to the Prince Regent, for Carlton House, by the Vuillamys, whose bill for £388 10s for the mounts was submitted in 1816. (10) These vases are illustrated in the ‘Golden Drawing Room’ at Carlton House, where they were placed on stepped gilt plinths. (11) The Vulliamy day books in the National Archives, Kew (TNA) show that both the 1st Earl and his son, the ‘Hon. Lord Lascelles’/‘Mr. Lascelles’, were important clients. An example of a Lascelles commission includes, on 21 June 1809, an entry for Edward Lascelles, ‘For mounting a pair of large baluster China vases. Made very large elegant snake handles highly chased (remountable). Made very elegant metal feet with… moulding and deep’. (12) Robert Fogg was evidently employed by the Vulliamys to supply porcelain or drill holes in porcelain, presumably to enable the mounts designed and created by the firm to be attached to the porcelain body. Interestingly, there are at least three other Chinese porcelain baluster vases at Harewood House with identical mounts.
Headed by the Royal Clockmaker Benjamin Vulliamy (1747-1811) with his eldest son, Benjamin Lewis (1780-1854) as junior partner, the Vulliamy firm began expanding their interests in the first decade of the 19th century into the production of a wide range of decorative objects in ormolu, bronze and marble. The acquisition of such objets de luxe in ormolu and bronze, previously focused on French centres of excellence, gained a new momentum during the 1770s and 80s with the challenge from Matthew Boulton and the Vulliamys to the dominance of French craftsmanship in this area of the decorative arts. These British makers continued to flourish into the 1800s since the traditional Parisian suppliers of luxury goods had been largely cut off by the Napoleonic wars in France.
These ornamental objects were usually designed by the Vulliamys themselves in the latest Empire or proto-Regency taste, drawing on their extensive library of art and architecture. They closely supervised the making of each object by the network of independent specialists already employed to manufacture their ornamental clocks and using the finest techniques and materials.
The majority of customers for such articles were the nobility, led by the Prince of Wales, Thomas Thynne, 2nd Marquess of Bath at Woburn Abbey and as afore-mentioned, the Lascelles, father and son.
The following extract from the Benson Beevers manuscripts, compiled in the 1950s, details a bill dated 1810, the final year of Benjamin Vulliamy's life when his son was the dominant figure at 68 Pall Mall, revealing the breadth of commissions undertaken by the firm:
'Vulliamy & Son, Watch and Clockmakers to their Majesties, The Prince of Wales, and the Dukes of Kent, Cumberland and Cambridge...Ornamental Plate and Plate for table uses, designed in good taste, after antique models...Large or small orders executed in Silver or Silver-gilt in the best manner...Ornamental work in metal for lights or other purposes made and gilt in the best, or in common gilding'.
The 1st Earl of Harewood’s personal accounts also show that another bronze-maker, the lesser-known Alexis Decaix, was regularly paid for ‘articles in or molu’. (10) Decaix, who was inspired by the designs of Thomas Hope, is also known to have worked for Henry Holland (the Prince of Wales’ architect at Carlton House) at Woburn Abbey, and for the Prince of Wales. In a bill dated 5 January 1801, Decaix described himself as a ‘bronze and ormolu manufacturer’.
(1) Harewood House 1892 inventory, p. 37.
(2) M. Mauchline, Harewood House: One of the Treasure Houses of Britain, Ashbourne, revised 2nd edition, 1992, p. 77.
(3) J. Jewell, The tourist’s companion, or the history and antiquities of Harewood, in Yorkshire, giving a particular description of Harewood House, Church and Castle, etc., 1819, p. 27.
(4) West Yorkshire Archive Service (WYAS), Ms. WYL250/3/Acs/519.
(5) C. Kennedy, Harewood, The Life and Times of an English Country House, London, 1982, p. 124.
(6) WYAS, Ms. WYL250/acc4111.
(7) T. Raikes, A Portion of the Journal kept by Thomas Raikes from 1831-1847, vol. 3, p.184.
(8) WYAS, Ms. WYL250/3/Acs/190.
(9) C. Kennedy, op.cit., p. 124.
(10) TNA, LC 11/20; J. Ayers, Chinese and Japanese Works of Art in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen, vol. II, 2016, p. 522.
(11) Ed. D. Watkin, The Royal Interiors of Regency England, London, 1984, p. 121.
(12) TNA, C 104/57/4