This model of vase, with its laurel swags after the antique and Ceres' libation paterae guilloche band, was conceived as a perfume burner with a pierced lid to release the scent of aromatic herbs, and derives from an illustration in volume 1, p. 171 of Matthew Boulton's Pattern Book.
Among Boulton and Fothergill's clients was Empress Catherine of Russia, who in 1771 directed her Russian envoy to visit Boulton's factory to acquire objects. This appointment was subsequently followed by a delivery of vases to the English envoy in Russia, destined for the Empress. A pair of vases, of the same model but differing in the use of fluorspar, is in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (illustrated in Catherine the Great: Art for Empire, Nathalie Bondil (ed.), Montreal, 2005, p. 129). These vases are perhaps the pair recorded in Catherine's collection in 1772, although subsequent commissions by Boulton are also recorded in in 1774 and 1776. Perhaps in reference to the present model, Catherine was reported in 1772 to have commented that Boulton's vases were 'superior to those of the French in all respects'.
A pair of perfume-burners of the same model is at Pavlovsk Palace, Saint Petersburg (A. Koutchoumov, Pavlovsk. Le Palais et le Parc, Leningrad, 1976, pl. 92). Whilst another pair in white marble, is in the Royal collection at Sandringham (N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London 2002, p. 302). Further examples of this design include: a pair from the Collection of Viscount Clifden, K.C.V.O, Christie's, London, 2 December 1966, lot 73; a pair sold anonymously, Christie's, London, 6 July 1995, lot 27 and a pair from the collection of Mrs. Gabrielle Keiller, 4 July 1996, lot 278.