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The Marlborough ice pails

  • Detail of handle

    Detail of handle

 

Height: 267.000 mm
Diameter: 218.000 mm (rim)
Diameter: 218.000 mm (rim)
Weight: 5.750 kg
Height: 267.000 mm
Diameter: 218.000 mm (rim)
Diameter: 218.000 mm (rim)
Weight: 5.750 kg

Purchased with the aid of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths (www.thegoldsmiths.co.uk/), the National Art Collections Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Pilgrim Trust and funds bequeathed by Mrs Katherine Goodhart Kitchingman

M&ME 1981,12-1,1;M&ME 1981,12-1,2

Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

    The Marlborough ice pails

    London, England, around AD 1700

    Ice pails, containing one bottle of wine, were intended to be placed on the table: larger cisterns and coolers would have stood on the floor. The use of ice pails became fashionable at the French court from the 1680s, and were thereafter used by nobility and wealthy aristocracy throughout Europe. These ice pails are the only surviving English examples made of pure gold, and weigh in total a remarkable 365 ozs 6 dwts Troy. Although unmarked, the Huguenot influence is unmistakable and can be seen in the large, heavy form, lion masks and ringed handles. Combined with spiral gadrooned decoration, an English late seventeenth century decorative tradition, the style indicates a date of manufacture in London around 1700.

    The ice pails were bequeathed in 1744 by Sarah, 1st Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744) to her grandson and heir, the Honourable John Spencer (1708-1746). The Duchess was a favourite of Queen Anne (reigned 1702-14); her husband John Churchill (1650-1722), ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill, was one of England's greatest military leaders. Together they were extremely influential at the English court in the first years of the eighteenth century, and acquired great fortunes.

    The Duchess' will referred to '2 large gold flagons', which passed to the Honourable John Spencer, who founded the present line of Earls Spencer. The ice pails remained in the Spencer family at Althorp, Northamptonshire, until their acquisition by the Museum in 1981.

    P. Glanville, Silver in England (London, 1987)

    P. Glanville (ed.), Silver (London, V&A Publications, 1996)

    S. Gough (ed.), Treasures for the Nation, exh. cat. (London, Published by The British Museum Press for the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1988)

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    On display: Room 46: Europe 1400-1800

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    Prints and drawings by Albrecht Durer, £9.99

    Prints and drawings by Albrecht Durer, £9.99