© National Museums of Scotland
Formerly in Hamilton Palace, South Lanarkshire, now
in the National Museums of Scotland
The tea service of
the Emperor Napoleon, purchased by the 10th
Duke of Hamilton in 1830, is a superb example of the richness
and magnificence of the French Empire style in its maturity.
This is one of the finest pieces: one of the pair
of double salts, surmounted by a cast figure of Venus, the goddess
of love. It is a heavy, beautifully finished piece. Similar salts
by Biennais exist, but generally lack the sweeping grace of the
drapery and attention to detail found here.
||The marks on both salts reveal that
they were made, though not necessarily completed, by the end of August
1809 and are 'stock-pieces' that were worked up and incorporated in
the service. This would have been fortuitous, because it is clear
that considerable thought went into the choice of subject matter.
The service was intended to celebrate the Emperor's marriage and references
to love and marriage abound. Venus is particularly prominent on the
salts, while Neptune and Amphitrite and the lovers Cupid and Psyche
disport themselves on the hot water urn and sugar bowl. Even more
pointedly, the tea caddy is adorned with a chased plaque representing
the Roman wall painting known as the Aldobrandini