Her Majesty’s Vase: A horse racing trophy by John Samuel Hunt

£ 62,500.00


London 1845




Cup height: 9¾ in (25cm)
Diameter: 10½ in (26.5 cm)
Overall height: 16½ in (42cm)
Maximum width: 14¾ in (37.5cm)
Weight: 138.476 oz troy (4,316g)

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This silver presentation vase is a small replica of the classical Roman ‘Warwick Vase’. The body is cast and chased with fruiting vines below the rim. The central field has a continuous band with bearded Bacchic heads floating above a lion’s mask and pelt. The applied handles comprise gnarled twisted vine stems. The spreading stem is set on a square foot which in turn sits on an ebonised wooden plinth base. The plinth is applied with two vacant laurel wreath cartouches and two rectangular plaques, one finely engraved with the Royal Coat of Arms and the other inscribed “Plymouth, Devonport and Cornwall Races 1845, the gift of her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Victoria, Augustus Coryton Esqr, W. R. Fortescue Esqr, Stewards” and “Her Majesty’s Vase, value 100gs., for three-year-old and upwards – Heats, about two miles, starting at the T.Y.C. Starting-post, once round, to the Grand Stand Winning-post.” Fully marked and stamped on the side of the foot ‘Hunt & Roskell Late Storr & Mortimer 2225’. English, assayed for London 1845.

Provenance: Her Majesty Queen Victoria. Sir John Barker-Mill, Baronet of Mottisfont.Thence by descent.

John Barker (1803-1860) was created 1st Baronet ‘of Mottisfont in the County of Southampton’ on 16 March 1836. A noted racehorse owner, Barker won numerous prestigious trophies with Giantess, Cymba, Miss Ellis and Pugilist. His most prestigious horse, Leviathan, sire of Giantess, won 16 of 21 starts and was sold to George IV for 2,000 guineas.

Plymouth, Devonport and Cornwall Races were held from 1828 until 1930. The racecourse was a flat, oval course of 12 furlongs with a straight run-in of 2 ½ furlongs. ‘Royal Plates’ were first introduced during the reign of Charles I and typically offered a prize of 100 guineas. By 1845 there were 910 Royal Plates spread across 45 different racecourses, three of which, Brighton, Plymouth and Down Royal, hosted a Queens’s Plate for the first time in Victoria’s reign, at a cost of £91,000 to the Crown, equivalent to £11.8 million today. 

The Warwick Vase was a colossal Roman marble vase measuring nearly six feet high, dating from the 2nd century A.D, was found in fragments in 1770 at the bottom of a lake at Hadrian’s Villa near Rome and acquired by Sir William Hamilton, at the time Ambassador to Naples and married to Emma, future mistress of Admiral Lord Nelson. Hamilton in turn sold it, now restored, to his kinsman, Charles (Greville), 2nd Earl of Warwick, who set it up in the grounds of Warwick Castle. The vase had been engraved by Piranesi in 1778, and these prints provided the inspiration for versions of the vase in silver and silver-gilt during the Regency period. Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, the royal goldsmiths, appear to have supplied most of the Warwick Vases, the most notable being the set of twelve commissioned by the Prince Regent and struck with the mark of Paul Storr, now at Windsor Castle. The Duke of York, second son of George III, owned a set of four which were included in the sale of his silver at Christie’s in 1827. 

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