BOULTON'S 1771 SALE AT CHRISTIE'S
While there is no sketch or design corresponding to this model of laurel-festooned griffin perfume-burner, the present lot corresponds to eight pairs that were included in Boulton's first sale at Christie's in 1771. The sale catalogue description of 'radix amethysti and or moulu, lined with silver and perferated for essence, supported by three griffins upon a round pedestal of the same materials, the whole in the antique taste' accurately describes the present lot (N.Goodison, Ormolu: The Work of Matthew Boulton, Op.cit, pp.157-158 and pls. 90 and 93).
Seven of the eight perfume-burners sold at prices of between £11 0s.6d. and £15 4s.6d, with Lady Godolphin and Colonel William amongst the buyers. The eighth unsold vase was probably that recorded to have been sent to Amsterdam by William Matthews, Boulton's London banker.
SIR WILLIAM CHAMBERS' DESIGN
This laurel-festooned griffin model relates to a candlestick which may have been among the 'modells' lent to Boulton in 1770 by Sir William Chambers (1726-1796), architect to George III, as implied in a 1773 letter from Chambers to Boulton asking for the return of a griffin model, amongst other pieces. Chambers' model for a griffin candlestick later featured in his Treatise on Civil Architecture, 3rd. ed., 1791 (N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, op.cit, p.86, pl. 48). A remarkably well-finished hand-colored presentation sketch now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, by John Yenn (d. 1821), who served as Chambers's assistant and pupil from 1764 to 1771, shows a much earlier version of this design with minor variations such as the decoration of the plinth (Ibid., pl.49). Interestingly, the garlands that hang across each griffin's shoulders and chest also find close parallel in Chambers' designs for the pair of 'Kings' candle vases from the Royal Garniture executed by Matthew Boulton from 1770-71 and now at Windsor Castle (illustrated in. N. Goodison, 'William Chambers's Furniture', Furniture History, 1990, vol. XXVI, p. 67-89). It is probable that Chambers adapted the idea from a seated sphinx seen on an antique Roman sarcophagus while on his Roman Tour between 1750 and 1754. A small group of candlesticks which appear to have been rigorously executed based on Chambers' design include a pair, possibly made by Diederich Nicolaus Anderson, c.1760-5, now at Bleinheim Palace, Oxfordshire (ill. N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, op.cit, p.86, pl. 50), and a further pair acquired from Mallett at Bergdorf Goodman, 28 March 1972, and later sold Christie's, New York, 19 April 2001, lot 250 ($116,000). Further related examples include a pair of Anglo-Indian ivory griffin candlesticks made in Murshidabad, India, in the late eighteenth century, which, like the present lot, forms part of the Gerstenfeld Collection (See E. Lennox-Boyd, op. cit, cat. no. 60, color plate 106).
RELATED EXAMPLES OF GRIFFIN PERFUME-BURNERS BY BOULTON
In addition to the present lot, recorded examples of this model include a larger version raised on an inswept tripartite base, c. 1770-71 (illustrated in J. Harris and M. Snodin, eds., Sir William Chambers: Architect to George III, New Haven, 1996, p.162, fig.242) and a smaller one on a drum-form base, probably executed c.1771 (illustrated in N. Goodison, Ormolu: The Work of Matthew Boulton, London, 1974, fig.90). A further closely related pair by Boulton was sold from the collection of John Villiers, Esq., Christie's, London, 16 November 1995, lot 3 (£49,900). While the griffins featured on the four above-mentioned examples have downswept wings, their posture along with the overall decoration relate most closely to Chamber's design, thus corroborating the latter's influence on Boulton's model.