Vases from Emo Court




A pair of rare ormolu amethyst quartz vases and covers were auctioned at Bonhams in London in December 2007. They are each 32cms high (12.5” high), and were made c1772 in Soho in London by Matthew Boulton for Viscount Carlow, who became the 1st Earl of Portarlington in 1785.


The mounted and banded winged-figure vases were originally a garniture of three vases with one, or perhaps a pair, being candelabra. One vase is now missing.  Both vases are marked EMO on the base. They are, almost certainly, those listed in the 1907 Marriage Settlement inventory for the 6th Earl of Portarlington, which was a complete list of the contents of Emo Court at the time. They are shown as 1 set (3) Blue and Gold Vases. They are also surely the Set of 3 Blue and Gold Vases valued at 5 guineas in the valuation of property following the death of the 3rd Earl in May 1889. It is suggested that the vases may have been bought by Viscount Carlow for his town house in Kildare St Dublin, as the building of Emo Court did not commence until c1790.


Matthew Boulton was the first English manufacturer of ornamental pieces in ormolu, the French having previously excelled in their production. His models were expensive and his varied stock included candlesticks, ice pails, clock cases, and, most especially, vases. The mania for ornamental vases (Josiah Wedgwood called it “vase madness”) led to many variants of the vases illustrated above being made for clients as prestigious as the Prince of Wales, who bought a pair as candelabra at Christie’s sale in 1772. A letter dated 1772 records the first mention of the model stating that the Earl of Stamford had bought “the winged vase” for 12 guineas.


It is possible that the vases were sold (as were most of the contents of Emo Court) following the decision of the Dawson-Damer family to leave Ireland in 1920, and the two vases surfaced again for sale in London in the late 1940s. The most recent price of £80,000 was paid by an Irish purchaser.