Thomas Foley, 3rd Baron Foley
Thomas Foley 3rd Baron Foley (1780-1833) was the son of Thomas Foley, 2nd Baron Foley and his wife Henrietta Stanhope. He succeeded his father to become third Baron in 1793, though was only able to take his seat in the House of Lords on gaining his majority in 1801. He married Lady Cecilia FitzGerald (d.1863), daughter of William FitzGerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster in 1806. Around the same time he served briefly as Master of the Quorn Hunt and later, when the Whigs came to power under Lord Grey in 1830, was appointed Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, a post he held until his death in 1833. Foley was also a member of the privy council from 1830 and Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire between 1831 and 1833. On his death in April 1833 he was succeeded by his son Thomas Henry who became 4th Baron Foley.
The title Baron Foley was first created 1712 for Thomas Foley who represented Stafford in the House of Commons and who was the grandson of the prominent ironmaster Thomas Foley and the nephew of Paul Foley, Speaker of the House of Commons. The title however was to be short lived in its first creation, becoming extinct on the death of Thomas' son in 1766. The title was created for a second time in 1776 for another Thomas Foley who sat as Member of Parliament for Droitwich and Herefordshire.
The design for these coolers can be attributed to French-born Jean-Jacques Boileau, a mural painter, who came to England to assist the architect Henry Holland in the decoration of the Prince of Wales's Carlton House. Boileau's drawing for a wine cooler in the Egyptian manner, which features identical sphinx supports and similar serpent handles, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, is clearly the inspiration for this object. The design forms part of a portfolio of drawings used by Rundell Bridge and Rundell from which many of the firm's designs were based, see T. Schroder, The Gilbert Collection of Gold and Silver, 1988, pp. 337-341, no. 89-90.
The design for the wine cooler reflects the 'French Empire' style promoted by Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign and later popularised by publications such as Vivant Denon's Voyages dans la Basse et la Haute Egypte of 1802 and its English translation Travels in Egypt, 1803. This ornamental style was led by the Rome-trained French court architects C. Percier and P. F. L. Fontaine, whose Receuil de Decorations Interieures, 1801, featured guardian sphinx supports on one of their Roman-style festive altars (pl. V) and on a tripod candleabrum (pl. XXIII). In London, this Parisian style was further promoted by the furnishings of Thomas Hope's mansion/museum in Duchess Street, where this same tripod-pattern of addorsed and single-legged sphinx featured on bronze 'candleabrum' candlesticks. Hope is likely to have commissioned them from the French-born Piccadilly bronze-founder Alexis Decaix (d.1811), see T. Hope, Household Furniture and Interior Decoration, 1807, pl. XLIX. The present sphinx rest on tripod and hollow-sided 'altar' plinths, whose paw feet symbolise the lion-attendants at Bacchus's triumphal Feasts. Early examples of Egyptian style plate by Paul Storr, retailed by Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, are the set of four Egyptian style tureens in the British Royal Collection, from the Prince Regent's 'Grand service', dated 1802 and 1803 which were exhibited London, The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Carlton House, The Past Glories of George IV's Palace, no. 85. They are accompanied by similarly inspired sets of sauceboats and salt cellars.
The present wine coolers' upper sections also corresponds to those of a set of silver-gilt wine-coolers by Paul Storr in the collection of the Dukes of Bedford at Woburn Abbey which bear the London hallmark for 1803/4, see M. Snodin, 'J. J. Boileau: A Forgotten Designer of Silver', The Connoisseur, June 1978, pp. 124-33 and H. Young, 'A Further Note on J. J. Boileau, "A Forgotten Designer of Silver"', Apollo, October 1986, pp. 334-37. A pair of identical ormolu wine coolers, retaining their original liners and with swan mount upside down, appeared in the sale of the 1st Viscount Bridport, great uncle to Admiral Viscount Nelson, (Christie's, London, 12 July 1895, lot 113). The catalogue entry is unclear as to whether these coolers originally belonged to Admiral Nelson but their date and style would suggest this possibility. The pair was later sold by the Trustees of The Late H. T. S. Upcher, Christie's House sale, Sheringham Hall, Upper Sheringham, Norfolk, 22-23 October 1986, lot 106. A set of four coolers, again in ormulu, from the Marcos Collection was sold on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines through the Presidential Commission for Good Government, Christie's New York, 10 January 1991, lot 53. A related pair of silver-gilt fruit coolers, bearing the maker's mark of Digby Scott and Benjamin Smith II and retailed by Rundell Bridge and Rundell from the Alan and Simone Hartman Collection sold Christie's New York, 20 October 1999, lot 184.