These vases are wrapped with serpents derived in part from those of antique altar-tripods dedicated to the sun-god Apollo. The form of the serpents recall the caduceus or wand of happiness and riches that Apollo presented to Jove's messenger Mercury - the god of Merchants. Although profoundly avant garde in design, with their lavishly chased handles and plain burnished Grecian socles, the concept of serpent handles had been introduced certainly by the 1760s for the duc d'Aumont and Randon de Boisset, featuring on a garniture of porphyry vases owned by each, of which one is in the J. Paul Getty Museum and the other is in the musée du Louvre. Randon de Boisset clearly admired the symbolism of serpents, as they also featured on the pair of tables commissioned circa 1770 and almost certainly designed under the direction of his architect Antoine-Mathieu Le Carpentier (d.1773), sold for the Cadoval Collection, Christie's London, 14 March 1996, lot 170.
LADY BAILLIE AND LEEDS CASTLE
The Hon. Mrs. Filmer, as Lady Baillie then was, in 1926 acquired Leeds Castle, a historic and romantic seat with Royal connections dating back to Saxon times and famously described by the historian Lord Conway as 'the loveliest castle...in the whole world'. Lady Baillie immediately breathed new life into the castle, embarking on extensive refurbishments carried out under the guidance of the legendary French designers Armand-Albert Rateau and Stéphane Boudin of the house of Jansen, creating a celebrated series of revitalized interiors. An informed and educated connoisseur, Lady Baillie was a pioneering collector of the very best French furniture who reached almost iconic status. As a result, in the 1930s Leeds Castle became one of the great society houses of England, with Queen Marie of Romania, Alfonso XIII of Spain and members of the British Royal family frequent visitors alongside stars of stage and screen including Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn and James Stewart. Follwing her death in 1974, ownership of Leeds Castle passed to the Leeds Castle Foundation, allowing it to be left to the nation in perpetuity.