29 May
Thu / 2014

The Gilded Dish: A Rienzi Blog
An Unexpected Provenance

Warwick vases were rampant in the visual and material culture of the 19th and 20th centuries. The bulky form, based on 23 ancient fragments and elaborated upon by the great “Cavalier Pasticci,” Giovanni Battista Piranesi, features bacchanalian iconography. Rienzi has three examples of Warwick vases on display; two were featured in an earlier blog.

A third Warwick vase joined Rienzi’s collection in 2010. Covered Vase, made by silversmith Paul Storr for the jewelry firm Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell between 1813 and 1814, is unusual in that it features a cover with a putto finial. The finial was likely made by modeler William Theed and has been found on other vases that do not have Warwick Vase iconography. Aside from the distinctive finial, Covered Vase is typical of Warwick vase replicas: It incorporates the heads of Bacchus and Pan; a thyrsus and pedum; grapevine handles; an egg-and-dart rim; and bunches of grapes.

However, what is most unusual about this sterling silver art object is its history of ownership. In March, I was able to dive into the vase’s past for one of Rienzi’s Gallery Talks. Curious about the work’s provenance, I began by simply researching the name of the individual the vase was made for, Sir David Ochterlony, and I was quite surprised by what I found!

According to the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS), Sir David Ochterlony was born in Boston in 1758. Following the death of Sir David's father in 1765, the family moved to England, and in 1777 Sir David was sent to India as a cadet in the British Army. He remained in India for the rest of his life. This vase dates to roughly the same time frame as the baronetcy that was awarded to him.

Interestingly, Sir David seems to have taken to the Mughal culture: The locals gave him a nickname that translated to “Crazy Star,” and according to the MHS, he was reputed to have 13 wives, each with her own elephant. William Dalrymple, author of the book White Mughals: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India (look for this title in our history book club selections next year!) has suggested that Sir David felt more at home in India than in England. Take a peek at a print, housed at the British Library, that features Sir David and his family in Delhi, beneath the pejorative eyes of his Boston relatives.