The design for these superb salt cellars is attributed to the painter and sculptor William Theed (1764-1817), on the basis of its close similarity to the artist's bronze "Thetis returning from Vulcan with Arms for Achilles," in the Royal Collection (exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts Bicentenary Exhibition, fig. 171, p. 50). Theed, a friend of fellow designer John Flaxman, was also connected with the firm Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, supplying designs and working as their chief modeler, commencing in 1803. Theed later became a partner in the firm and continued his association with Rundell's until his death in 1817.
The attribution to Theed is further strengthened by the existence of a design drawing from an album of Rundell's entitled "Designs for Plate by John Flaxman, etc." in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Charles Oman's study of the album concluded that the designs were the work of John Flaxman's pupil Edward Hodges Baily, who joined Rundell's in 1815. However, the silver salt cellars predate Baily's tenure at Rundell's, and the close association to Theed's sculpture indicates that the original designer must have been Theed.
There are at least three variations of this model, each with a differing base. A set of 24 salts with oval bases by Paul Storr of 1810 entered the Royal Collection in 1811, invoiced at a cost of £902 12s. One of these is illustrated in Carlton House: The Past Glories of George IV's Palace, 1991, cat. no. 95, p. 133. A set of three salt cellars on an oval, wave-capped base by Paul Storr of 1811-12 is illustrated in J. Bliss, The Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of English Silver, n.d., cat. no. 37, pp. 112-13, and a set of four by William Pitts of 1813 are in the Love Collection (lot 232). A set of eight salt-cellars with heavier rockwork base by Paul Storr of 1822 is illustrated in The Glory of the Goldsmith: Magnificent Gold and Silver from the Al-Tajir Collection, 1989, cat no. 151, p. 198.
Earl Grosvenor, after 1831 the Marquess of Westminster, had a successful political career, becoming a Lord of the Admiralty in 1789 and a commissioner of the Board of Control in 1793. He was a keen follower of the turf and owned some of the most famous horses of the day. Lord Grosvenor is best remembered however for his development of his London estates, now called Belgravia, under the architectural direction of Thomas Cubitt (1788-1855).
Eight salt cellars illustrated on previous pages