© Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian
Formerly in Hamilton Palace, South Lanarkshire, now
in Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, Portugal
Items made of agate, jasper and other semi-precious
stones have been prized by collectors since at least Classical times.
William Beckford and the 10th Duke of Hamilton
both had highly developed interests in such work and Hamilton Palace
contained some internationally important examples, including the
so-called 'Rubens Vase' of agate (now in the Walters Art Gallery,
Baltimore), and this piece.
The jasper ewer itself is either Byzantine or
medieval, and would probably have been preserved in a secular or
religious treasury of some sort. It was evidently highly regarded
in the mid-1730s because it was fitted with solid gold mounts by
a leading Parisian goldsmith and given a new lease of life. The
mounts on the top are based on a design by the great French painter
François Boucher and a related design appears in the artist's Livre
de vases, published around 1738.
The ewer is clearly recorded, beneath a glass
shade, in the First State Dressing Room, in the inventory of Hamilton
Palace compiled in the early 1850s. It was one of the items illustrated
in the 1882 Hamilton Palace sale catalogues and sold to the dealer
Samuel Wertheimer for £2,467.10s. From Baron Charles de Rothschild,
in Frankfurt, it passed, via his daughter, to Baron Henri de Rothschild.
Financial difficulties during World War II obliged Baron Henri to
sell the ewer to Calouste Gulbenkian
in 1943 and it is now in the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum in Lisbon.