Following Matthew Boulton and John Fothergill's 1768 establishment of a high quality gilt bronze (ormolu) manufactory in Soho, Birmingham, the 'ice pail' cistern was among their products discussed the following year and put into production in 1772. Conceived in the French fashion, these ice-pails are of bacchic vase form with foliage-wrapped bowls and satyr-headed handles derives from the celebrated marble antiquites known as the Medici and Borghese wine-krater vases. Their pattern, with the addition of husks suspended in the antique flutes, features in the firm's Pattern Book 1(N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton: Ormolu, London, 2002, pl. 211). A set of four Louis XV ormolu ice-pails with early 19th century English bases was sold from Houghton Hall by the 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, Christie's Lonodn, 8 Decmber 1994, lot 68.
Boulton's descendant Sir Patrick Thomas owned a closely related ice- pail, but with satyr-heads lacking the vine wreaths featured on the present vases, as well as being cast rather than rolled copper as in this instance (Goodison, ibid., pp. 257 and 258, pls.212 and 213). A pair, of the 'Thomas' pattern and retaining their tinned 'silverd' copper liners, was acquired by the Victoria & Albert Museum in 1975 .
A closely related pair of ice-pails was sold anonymously, Hotel Drouot, 20 November 2002, lot 94.