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Portland Font

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Title (object)

    • Portland Font
  • Description

    Font, made of 22ct gold in the form of a free-standing sculpture in the neo-classical style with figures placed on a low square platform with four feet and a mantled cartouche at the front. In the centre stands a two-handled bowl on winged cherub legs, chased with a band of low relief ornament round the rim and a design of lily leaves, chased and engraved, on the underside; the feet of the bowl sit in depressions in the platform. Behind the bowl stands the figure of Faith holding a cross, in the act of blessing; on the left of the bowl, the figure of Hope, seated on the edge of the platform with an anchor; on the right, the figure of Charity, seated with three children (one separate). The figures are cast and chased and bolted to the platform, the cross slots into a hole in the platform, and the whole is placed on a square velvet-covered plinth with four silver-gilt ring handles with acanthus leaves.


  • Producer name

  • Date

    • 1797
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 33 centimetres (total)
    • Width: 42 centimetres (total)
    • Width: 41.5 centimetres (velvet-covered base, square)
    • Height: 26.8 centimetres (without base)
    • Width: 34.9 centimetres (platform, square)
    • Height: 11.4 centimetres (bowl)
    • Diameter: 21.6 centimetres (bowl)
    • Height: 18.4 centimetres (Faith)
    • Height: 11.4 centimetres (Hope)
    • Height: 10.8 centimetres (Charity)
    • Weight: 222 ounces (excluding Hope's foot rest)
    • Weight: 11 kilograms
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        single child
      • Inscription Comment

        Stamped with the lion and leopard heads.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        bowl and single child
      • Inscription Content

      • Inscription Comment

        Stamped, date-letter for 1797.
      • Inscription Type

        maker's mark
      • Inscription Position

        bowl and figures of Charity and Hope
      • Inscription Content

        P S
      • Inscription Comment

      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

      • Inscription Comment

        Stamped with the lion, leopard and George heads for London.
      • Inscription Type

      • Inscription Position

        bowl and three main figures
      • Inscription Comment

        Stamped with complete London hallmarks.
  • Curator's comments

    This superb gold font was designed by Humphrey Repton (1752-1818) and made by the workshop of Paul Storr (1771-1844). It is the only known example in England of a gold font made for private use. It was commissioned by William Bentinck, third duke of Portland (1738-1809) on the occasion of the birth of his first grandson, William Henry Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck (1796-1824), Viscount Woodstock, son of the Marquess of Tichfield, in 1796. It has remained in the family until its acquisition by the British Museum in 1986.

    The detachable bowl, with its bold neo-classical decoration, rests on four winged cherub feet, surrounded by three free-standing sculptural figures representing the Cardinal Virtues. These are: Faith (standing with a cross and her hand held over the bowl in the act of benediction), Hope (seated, holding a symbolic anchor) and Charity (seated and shown comforting children).

    This is the first use in English goldsmith's work of free-standing figural sculpture, and heralds the nineteenth-century tradition of magnificent sculptural presentation plate. The contrast between chased and burnished surfaces of gold can be noted in the textured draperies of the figures, while the lilies decorating the underside of the bowl are reflected in the plinth below, as if on water.

    Paul Storr was one of the most outstanding and well known of London goldsmiths. He operated an independent firm before joining the Royal Goldsmiths, Rundell, Bridge and Rundell in 1811.

    For Repton's own account of his design for the Font, see H. Repton, 'Observations on the theory and practice of landscape gardening'', 1803, p. 165. See also S. Gough (ed.), 'Treasures for the Nation', exh. cat. (London, Published by The British Museum Press for the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1988).


  • Location

    On display: G47/dc1

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Commissioned by the 3rd Duke of Portland(1738-1809) on the birth of his first grandson, William Henry(b.21.8.1796) as a present to his eldest son, the Marquess of Titchfield, whose eldest surviving son (William Henry died in 1824) William John Cavendish Scott Bentwick, became the 5th Duke in 1854; the font remained in the family of the Dukes of Portland until its sale by Lady Anne Bentwick at Christie's, 11.7.1985, lot 347.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number


COMPASS Title: The Portland Font


COMPASS Title: The Portland Font

Image description



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Object reference number: MCT938

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