The source for the design for this series of sugar vases is a Roman funerary urn in the celebrated antique sculpture collection of the 1st Marquess of Lansdowne, identified by David Udy in "Piranesi's Vasi, the English Silversmith and his Patrons", Burlington Magazine, December 1978, p. 837, fig. 55-57. Unlike the Warwick Vase, which had been popularized by Piranesi's engravings of the eighteenth century, the Lansdowne urn apparently was reproduced directly in silver before John Duit engraved it around 1813. The design in silver is attributed to the sculptor John Flaxman, who used a variation of the urn in his tomb monument for Sir Thomas Burrell in 1796. Flaxman became Rundell's most important designer around the time the firm became Royal Goldsmiths in 1804. In this period, Scott and Smith ran Rundell's workshop, executing the designs and models supplied by the firm in silver and silver-gilt.
A set of eight vases of this design, made for George IV as Prince of Wales at a cost of L376 4s, is in the Royal collection, illustrated in Carlton House: The Past Glories of George IV's Palace, 1991, cat. no. 95, p. 133. Manufactured by Benjamin Smith and Benjamin and James Smith in 1808 and 1809, the Royal vases post-date the present examples, indicating that the design was already in production for several years before being acquired by the Prince of Wales.
The first known examples were produced by Scott and Smith probably no earlier than 1805. The present lot includes five from that year. A set of four vases of the same year by Digby Scott and Benjamin Smith sold at Christie's, London, July 1, 1953, lot 111 from the collection of Earl Howe. Paul Storr also produced the design, manufacturing a set of four for the 1st Earl of Harewood in 1814 which was sold at Christie's, London, June 30, 1965, lot 101. Another set of four by Paul Storr of 1816/17 is illustrated in J. Bliss, The Jerome and Rita Gans Collection of English Silver, n.d., pp. 132-35.