These vase-garniture candlesticks, evoking lyric-poetry, are designed in Matthew Boulton's French antique taste appropriate for the furnishing of ladies' desks or bonheur-du-jours in the fashionable apartments decorated in the Roman Etruscan 'columbarium' fashion, promoted from the 1760s by architects such as Robert Adam (d. 1792) and James Wyatt (d. 1813).
The candles' pearl-wreathed 'vase' nozzles are incorporated in the lids of these palm-wrapped and laurel-wreathed 'krater' vases, whose sacred-veil drapery and rose-festooned 'altar' plinths recall ancient festivities and sacrifices at love's altar. This poetic theme inspired related laurel-festooned 'Cleopatra' candle vases, such as those that Messrs Matthew Boulton (d. 1809) and John Fothergill of Soho, Birmingham hoped to sell in 1770 to Augusta, Dowager Princess of Wales (N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London, 2003, pl. 328). The firm's pattern for marble vases in the 'antique taste' features in the firm's archives (ibid, pl. 250) and a pair of enamel-bodied vases, like the present lot but in white enamel and with drapery swags instead of laurel swags, is illustrated ibid., p. 291, pl. 249. Goodison also illustrates one of the enamel-bodied pair disassembled in pl. 108, the component parts being exactly the same as the present lot.
A pair of ormolu-bodied vases of this model was sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 6 July 1995, lot 5 (ibid., pls. 248).