John Samuel Hunt
A Silver Portland Vase
This elegant Portland Vase is an “icon of ancient art” which together with the Warwick Vase was faithfully produced by Rundell, Bride and Rundell in the early 19th century. The form and decorative scheme of the Roman vessel were faithfully adhered to but the silver vessel is nevertheless a technical masterpiece and a wonderfully satisfying object with great subtleties in the textures and finish of the surfaces.
Despite its great beauty, the form did not lend itself to adaptation to a number of purposes in the same way as the ubiquitous Warwick Vase. Only a few of the vases were fitted for instance as wine coolers and produced by the firm between 1820 and 1824. The upper section could be removed to allow a bottle to be placed in the bowl; the vase can be inverted without any water leaking out.
The figures around the sides of the vase are thought to depict the story of the marriage of Peleus and Thetis (D. E. L. Haynes, The Portland Vase, 1975, pp. 16-20) although there have been many interpretations of the figures and the disc in the base probably depicts Paris.
The original Roman dark blue glass Portland Vase is now thought to be the upper section of a taller amphora-shaped vessel the bottom of which must have been broken off and the circular unrelated disc inserted at a later date. It is not known when the vase was first discovered but the first record of it was in the collections of Cardinal Francesco Maria del Monte (1549-1627). It changed hands on a number of occasions until in about 1780 it was acquired by the antiquarian James Byres in Rome. He in turn sold it to Sir William Hamilton, British Ambassador to the Court of Naples, who was also to purchase the Warwick Vase, who brought it to London in 1783. He sold it in the following year for 1,800 guineas to the Dowager Duchess of Portland for her museum of natural and artificial curiosities. On her death in 1785 it was acquired at auction by William, 3rd Duke of Portland and in 1810 was deposited at the British Museum for safekeeping by 4th Duke of Portland. In 1845 it was smashed into over two hundred pieces by William Lloyd although it was successfully restored. It was finally acquired by the British Museum in 1945.
Hunt & Roskell, a firm of manufacturing and retail jewellers and silversmiths, was founded by Paul Storr in 1819, trading as Storr & Co. (1819-22), Storr & Mortimer (1822-38), Mortimer & Hunt (1838-43) and then Hunt & Roskell (1843-97). Hunt & Roskell had retail premises at 156 New Bond Street and a manufactory at 26 Harrison Street, near Clerkenwell. John Samuel Hunt, who had assisted Storr from the start, continued as a partner until his death in 1865, when he was succeeded by his son, John Hunt (d.1879). Robert Roskell, formerly a watchmaker and merchant of Liverpool, joined in 1844 and remained in the firm until his death in 1888. In 1889 the firm was taken over by J.W. Benson and continued in business as Hunt & Roskell Ltd until c.1965. Trade card in Heal Collection (Heal,67.383) advertises "Hunt & Roskell, Late Storr & Mortimer, Jewellers, Goldsmiths & Silversmiths to The Queen, The Emperor of the French, &c. &c. &c..." Heal's annotations on mount: "Britten's 'Clock & Watchmakers' gives: - Storr & Mortimer, 13, New Bond St. 1830-42. 1826-7 L. Directory gives: - Paul Storr, silversmith, 13, New Bond St. 1827 L. Directory gives: - Storr & Mortimer, gold & silversmiths, 13 New Bond St. 1832 L. Directory gives: - Storr & Mortimer, jewellers, 13 New Bond St. 1838 L. Directory gives: - Storr & Mortimer, silversmiths, 13 New Bond St. 1839 L. Directory gives: - Storr & Mortimer, silversmiths, manufactory, 13 Harrison St. 136 New Bond Street and manufactory, 26 Harrison Street, Gray's Inn Road."
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