This Grecian krater-shaped basin and ewer echoes the Etruscan/Pompeian red laurel-decorated chamber service designed by the sculptor/cabinet-maker George Bullock (d. 1818) for Napoleon's use at New Longwood House, St. Helena. Discussed in C. Wainwright et al., George Bullock, Cabinet-Maker, London, 1988, no.30, pp.93-94, Bullock's design for a related ewer and basin remains in the Howe Papers at the British Museum (British Library, Ad. Mss 20. 222. folio 234). The wreath of laurels for Napoleon's Chamber service - comprising ewer, basin, toothbrush holder and soap-dish - however, was so redolent of the victor that it was deemed highly inappropriate decoration for a 'chamber service' commissioned by George, Prince of Wales, later King George IV for his defeated enemy. As a result of this rejection the basin formed part of one of several 'chamber services complete bordered' supplied to Matthew Robinson Boulton (d. 1842) for Tew Park, Oxfordshire. These were invoiced by Bullock in 1817 at a cost of 3 guineas each and were sold by the Executors of the late Major Eustace Robb, Christie's House Sale, 27-29 May 1987, lot 692.
As the Times article of 24 October 1815 entitled 'House and Furniture for Buonaparte' revealed:-
'The table services have been provided by Mr Bullock, from the most eminent manufacturers in the Kingdom, and consist of the fairest, though not the most extravagant, specimens of our own proficiency in the various walks of mechanism and art.'
As Bullock is known to have commissioned ceramics from Wedgwood, Derby and Spode, amongst other factories on the St. Helena commission, as well as holding an account with the Herculaneum Pottery in Liverpool from 1808-1811, the making of a firm attribution for this ewer and basin remains difficult.
Although only speculation, taking into account the 6th Duke's keen interest in Napoleon, and his considerable collection of Napoleon memorabilia and statuary, it is entirely possible that this ewer and basin, like those at Tew, was also originally destined for St. Helena.
Further pieces from Napoleons 'Chamber Service' were acquired at Tew by the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside.