This festive and wonderfully exotic vase-garniture, concealing candle-vases in the lids, was commissioned through the East India Company to embellish fashionable bedroom apartments that were decorated in the antique Etruscan Columbarium fashion promoted from the 1760s by the Rome-trained court architect Robert Adam (d.1792). Vases, richly wrought in lacy silver, also formed part of the fine "India and other Curiousities" displayed in glazed china-cabinets such as that designed by Adam for Sarah Childs 'gold filigree' displayed in her apartment at her Thames-valley villa Osterley Park, Middlesex (see M. Tomlin, "The 1782 Inventory of Osterley Park", Furniture History Society Journal, 1986, p.117). A pair of identical cassolettes, but in silver, were with Blairman Ltd., London.
The fashion for such filigree-work existed in England as early as the late 17th Century, as numerous pieces are described in the Will of Elizabeth, Countess of Devonshire, 1690. These were left to her daughter, Anne, Countess of Exeter and remain at Burghley House, Lincolnshire (O. Impey et al., Four Centuries of Decorative Arts from Burghley House, Virginia, 1998, nos. 33-35). Although little is known of the origin of such filigree decoration, it has been attributed both to england and India, as with the set of related silver cassolettes, thought to have been made in Goa in the second half of the 17th century, which is in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.
These bacchic vases, displayed on Grecian stepped plinths, celebrate lyric poetry; with their egg-shaped wine krater bowls festooned with Apollo laurels draped from sacrifical ram-heads and recalling sacrifices at loves altar in antiquity. Their pattern derives from the ormolu-enriched marble vases manufactured by the celebrated Birmingham industrialist Matthew Boulton (d.1809) and popularised by their retail at Christies in the 1770s (N. Goodison, Ormolu: The Work of Matthew Boulton, London, 1974, pp. 155-157, fig. 161, k). A pair of cassolette vases of the more traditional Boulton model was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 28 June 1979, lot 6, whilst another similar pair was sold by Ann, Lady Rootes, 22 May 1969, lot 26.