The antique-fluted cutlery-boxes evolved from 1760s patterns for sideboard-pedestal 'wine-krater' vases invented by the architect Robert Adam (d.1792); and relate in particular to a pattern for an egg-bodied vase issued by Thomas Malton in 1778 (R. and J. Adam, Works in Architecture, 1774 , pl. 8; and T. Malton's, Compleat Treatise on Perspective, 1778, pl. 34, fig. 129). The latter was also displayed, as in the present case, on a 'commode' pedestal enriched with flutes and Roman tablets with hollowed corners.
The Earl of Shelburne was one of Adam's most significant early patrons, commissioning major work at both Bowood House, Wiltshire, and Shelburne (later Lansdowne) House, Berkeley Square. These dining room urns probably belong to the early phase of patrongage between Adam and Shelburne, very soon after ADam had repalced Henry Keene as arhcitect. This first phase included the drawing-room or 'Great Room', with its ceiling of recessed dishes derived from Robert Wood's Ruins of Palmyra of 1753 and walls decorated with panels of grotesque ornament of the type found at the Villa Pamphili and used by Adam at Shardeloes previously, as well as the Entrance Hall and the two North East rooms, one of which included a Dining Room.