Matthew Boulton's krater-vase pattern is conceived in the George III 'Roman' manner of the 1770s, and evokes Ovid's Metamorphoses or 'Loves of the Gods', with its egg, recalling the History of Jupiter whose seduction of Leda in the guise of a swan lead to the birth of Rome's founders, Romulus and Remus. It is crowned with a festive thyrsus finial and guarded by Egyptian 'sphynx'. The latter comprise winged and pearl-draped 'nymph' caryatids, who are bound by a flowered ribbon-guilloche and have Egyptian striated herms emerging from a palm-flowered Roman wreath of acanthus.
The pattern for this vase-candelabrum, with a white body and marble plinth, features in Boulton's metal-work Pattern Book (no.1) preserved in the Birmingham City Museum, and bears the number 238 . It appears together with a pattern for a 'cassolette' vase, lacking branches but embellished with a husk-festooned medallion. (N. Goodison, Ormolu: The Work of Matthew Boulton, London, 1974, fig.162, nos. f and b). Their design evolved from the Atlas-figured vase-candelabra that Boulton designed in 1770 for George III and whose 'King's' vase pattern also features in the Pattern Book as no. 399. The latter figures also reflect the influence of the Court architect Sir William Chambers, whose Civil Architecture, 1759 devoted a chapter to 'Persians and Caryatides' (N. Goodison, 'The King's Vases', Furniture History, 1972, pp. 35-40).
This pattern of vase-candelabra was included by Boulton and Fothergill in their April 1772 sale at Christie and Ansell's London show-rooms, and catalogued as 'Wing figured Vases'. Two pairs, with Stourbridge-glass bodies, and one pair with Derbyshire bluejohn bodies were purchased by Robert Child (d. 1782) of Osterley Park, Middlesex and Berkeley Square, London (Goodison, op. cit., p. 164c). One such 'winged' vase had also been purchased at Soho in January of that year by the Earl of Stamford (ibid., p. 166). A similar pair of vase-candelabra, standing on tortoiseshell plinths, was formerly in the collection of H.R.H. the Duke of Kent (sold in these Rooms, 14 March 1947, lot 312). One, with Derbyshire fluorspar body, is in the Speed Art Museum, and another is illustrated in Mallett, The Age of Matthew Boulton, n.d. , p. 64.