Seminars in the History of Collecting
Piecing together a collection: Sir William Holburne’s display mounts

Catrin Jones (Curator, Holburne Museum, Bath)
Monday, 26 November 2018, 5.30pm
The Wallace Collection Lecture Theatre

Our understanding of works of art can be transformed by how they are displayed. This
paper will explore the gilt-bronze, marble and rosewood mounts which were once an
integral part of how Sir William Holburne (1793-1874) showed his collection. Many of
the objects were separated from their nineteenth-century display mounts in the
twentieth century, and recently reassembled. One of the most surprising examples is a
porcelain bourdaloue, or lady’s chamberpot, transformed by its display mounts from
damaged vessel into gilt-bronze mounted vase ‘with dragon mounts’. Made at the
Meissen Porcelain Factory in 1735-40, the shape was designed by Johann Joachim Kändler.

An outstanding example of Meissen’s painting at this period, featuring scenes of gallant
couples, the pot is decorated with risqué scenes after Nicolas Vleughels and Antoine
Watteau. The gilt-bronze dragon mounts (similar to those on the Wallace Collection’s F103-4), floral swags and base are of the nineteenth century, and are a combination of cast pieces in different styles, toned with gold to appear as though they match. Hidden inside the vessel is a tongue-in-cheek reference to its function: ‘Aux Plaisirs des Dames’ in gold lettering. It is likely that Holburne bought the bourdaloue from a dealer fully assembled, so he probably never saw the inscription, nor knew the original, surprising purpose of this pot. This talk will explore this and other works, and how their mounts affect our understanding of Holburne’s collecting and taste.


Admission is free and booking is not required

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