The Trafalgar Vase

Vase and Cover
1805-1806 (made)
The Trafalgar Vase thumbnail 1
The Trafalgar Vase thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
British Galleries, Room 120, The Wolfson Galleries
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Object Type
This vase is an example of presentation silver which could have been displayed on the dining table during a very grand dinner or formed part of a massed group of silver ewers, basins and cups on a dining-room buffet. The buffet as a decorative element in the dining room had regained favour in the late 18th century.

People
The Patriotic Fund, a group of businessmen concerned to reward bravery in the Napoleonic War, held a competition to determine the design of the awards of swords, medals and vases. It was won by John Shaw's design for a vase. He received the top award of 50 guineas, but the artist and sculptor John Flaxman later modified the design for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, the Royal Goldsmiths who had been commissioned to supply the vases. This vase was made by the silversmiths Benjamin Smith and Digby Scott, who managed Rundell's workshop from 1801 to 1807.

Design
The overall form of the vase was copied from that of the Greek volute krater. Examples of this antique vessel used for mixing wine and water were well known from illustrations and from the collection of Sir William Hamilton, which was bought and displayed by the British Museum in 1772. The figure of Britannia on one side of the vase ultimately derives from ancient Greek images of the goddess Athena, while on the other, the warrior slaying the serpent must be intended to represent the Greek hero Herakles destroying the Hydra. Numerous parallels exist in classical art for both reliefs, and the sophisticated reworking of the iconography suggests that John Flaxman was responsible for the designs. The vases cost between œ35 and œ651, depending on the size and elaboration of the ornament. The most expensive (œ651 5s) was awarded to Admiral Lord Nelson's widow. As this vase was not inscribed it is quite likely that it was never awarded.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Parts
This object consists of 2 parts.

  • Vase
  • Cover (Closure)
Materials and Techniques
Silver
Brief Description
The Trafalgar Vase, silver, London hallmarks for 1805-6, mark of Digby Scott and Benjamin Smith II for Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, designed by John Shaw with modifications by John Flaxman A.R.A.
Physical Description
A silver vase and cover, with two high handles, decorated with Tudor roses and ropes. On one side of the body in relief is Britannia holding a victory, with the inscription Britannia Triumphant and on the other Hercules slaying the hydra with the legend Britons SWtrike Home. The lower portion of the body and the foot are decorated with a band of acanthus leaves and acorns and the rim has a floral scroll border within ropes. Round the neck of the cover is surmounted by a lion is a band of laurel wreaths and berries.
Dimensions
  • Height: 17in
  • Width: 10.25in
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
  • London hallmarks for 1805-1806
  • Mark of Digby Scott and Benjamin Smith for Rundell, Bridge and Rundell
  • Inscribed on the body: BRITONS STRIKE HOME / BRITANNIA TRIUMPHANT
Gallery Label
  • Designed by John Flaxman R.A. this piece (which was not in fact awarded) was one of a number of vases made between 1804 and 1809 by Scott & Smith and Paul Storr, then all working for Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, for presentation by Lloyd's Patriotic Fund to the captain of some of the ships at the battle of Trafalgar ... Gallery 121 case 8
  • British Galleries: From 1803 to 1809, the Patriotic Fund rewarded bravery shown in the Napoleonic War. Most of the 73 vases made were given to naval officers. Fifteen were awarded to captains of the fleet after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.(27/03/2003)
Credit line
Given by Joseph Bond
Object history
Designed by John Shaw (1776-1832); made by Digby Scott (active in London 1802-1811) and Benjamin Smith II (1764-1823); modified by John Flaxman (1755-1826); made for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, London



Bond Collection - Joseph Bond

Design reworked by John Flaxman. Presentation Cup originally funded by Lloyds Patriotic Fund to some of captains at war esp. Trafalgar.



Royal Goldsmiths Exhibition RF.2005/25



Classical Ideal Exhibition RF.2009/1012
Historical context
Lloyd's Patriotic Fund was founded on 20th July, 1803, when a meeting was held of merchants, underwriters and other subscribers to Lloyd's at which it weas resolved: "That to animate the efforts of our defenders by sea and land, it is expedient to raise by the patriotism of the community at large a suitable fund for their comfort and relief ..... and for the granting of pecuniary rewards or honourable badges of distiction, for successful exertions of valour or merit."



Under the above resolution, vases were presented and the inscription on those presented to the Captains of vessels at Trafalgar was as follows:



"From the Patriotic Fund at Lloyds to ... Esq., Captain of H.M.S. ... for his meritorious services in contributing to the signal victory obtained over the combined fleets of France and Spain off Cape Trafalgar on 21st October 1805." Sixty six vases were made in all. Seven were undelivered.
Production
The original designs for the Patriotic Fund vase have not survived, and the original designer is not known. Rundell's were given the commission to make them, 'conformable to the Design approved by the Committee' after a competition. In due course Rundell's asked Flaxman to modify the winning design into a practical object. (Leslie Southwick, 'The Silver vases awarded by the Patriotic Fund', The Silver Society Journal, Winter 1990, pp. 27-49)
Subjects depicted
Place Depicted
Association
Summary
Object Type
This vase is an example of presentation silver which could have been displayed on the dining table during a very grand dinner or formed part of a massed group of silver ewers, basins and cups on a dining-room buffet. The buffet as a decorative element in the dining room had regained favour in the late 18th century.

People
The Patriotic Fund, a group of businessmen concerned to reward bravery in the Napoleonic War, held a competition to determine the design of the awards of swords, medals and vases. It was won by John Shaw's design for a vase. He received the top award of 50 guineas, but the artist and sculptor John Flaxman later modified the design for Rundell, Bridge & Rundell, the Royal Goldsmiths who had been commissioned to supply the vases. This vase was made by the silversmiths Benjamin Smith and Digby Scott, who managed Rundell's workshop from 1801 to 1807.

Design
The overall form of the vase was copied from that of the Greek volute krater. Examples of this antique vessel used for mixing wine and water were well known from illustrations and from the collection of Sir William Hamilton, which was bought and displayed by the British Museum in 1772. The figure of Britannia on one side of the vase ultimately derives from ancient Greek images of the goddess Athena, while on the other, the warrior slaying the serpent must be intended to represent the Greek hero Herakles destroying the Hydra. Numerous parallels exist in classical art for both reliefs, and the sophisticated reworking of the iconography suggests that John Flaxman was responsible for the designs. The vases cost between œ35 and œ651, depending on the size and elaboration of the ornament. The most expensive (œ651 5s) was awarded to Admiral Lord Nelson's widow. As this vase was not inscribed it is quite likely that it was never awarded.
Bibliographic References
  • Leslie Southwick, "The Silver Vases Awarded by the Patriotic Fund" in The Silver Society Journal, Winter 1990
  • Turner, Eric English Silver from 1660, London, HMSO, 1985 p.24. ill. ISBN. 0112904122
Collection
Accession Number
803:1, 2-1890

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record createdJune 1, 1998
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