Lent by Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection there are some fantastic pieces returning to the Royal Pavilion.
A highlight is six magnificent porcelain pagodas from the Music Room. These imposing porcelain towers were made in China in about 1803 very likely on the instructions of George, Prince of Wales, and later George IV. Two of the larger pagodas and two of the smaller ones were acquired in 1804 from the dealer Fogg. They were brought from China, a journey of some 4,831 miles by Dr JJ Garrett, a ship’s surgeon.
Garrett complained his cabin was so full of wares collected in China that there was scarcely any room to lie down. As well as pagodas, his cargo included wallpaper, tables, lacquer, 26 musical instruments, three gongs, stone figures, lanterns, swords, bows and arrows and a box of tobacco. Much of this eventually found its way to the Royal Pavilion.
In 1817 two more pagodas were supplied to the King by Fogg. He also supplied the English Spode porcelain bases, used to raise the pagodas to suit the proportions of the Music Room, as well as 192 bells, 192 dolphins and 216 dogs, all in gilt-bronze supplied by the clockmaker and entrepreneur B. L. Vulliamy. It was – and remains – the greatest collection of porcelain pagodas ever assembled in one place.
For the Western imagination of the day, the pagoda was the very image of the exotic east, associated with ideas of leisure and pleasure. Models of them in jade, soapstone, ivory, mother of pearl and porcelain were imported as ‘private trade’ on East India Company ships. They were usually of modest size; the huge porcelain towers commissioned for the Royal Pavilion were expensive, rare and luxurious items. They represent the pinnacle of the Chinese taste which prevailed in the Pavilion after 1802.
The Kylin Clock.
This extraordinary extravaganza described as ‘magnificent’, ‘very curious’ and ‘of elegant and splendid workmanship’ in the 1828 inventory of the Royal Pavilion, was acquired in France in about 1820 and intended for the Saloon – the centrepiece of the Royal Pavilion.
When purchased the clock consisted of a 17th-century Chinese bowl turned on its side with the shoulders replaced by a clock dial. This was flanked by two large early 18th century Chinese Buddhistic lions or ‘dogs of Fo’ in turquoise-glazed porcelain, then known (incorrectly) as kylins, after a mythical Chinese animal (qilin).
Above is a seated Buddha who represented good fortune. He is flanked by two children. The base consisted of five panels of Chinese porcelain cut from a box. This bizarre confection was assembled in France in the early 18th century with gilt bronze mounts and an arbour of exotic fruits and flowers, also in gilt bronze.
Once in George’s possession the clock was, incredibly, further embellished with the sunflower motifs found in the Saloon. In 1821 the French clock movement was replaced by a new one by BL Vulliamy.
Robert Jones, who designed the Saloon, provided designs for new gilt-bronze sunflower motifs which were supplied by the bronze manufacturer Samuel Parker. Finally a new marble and gilt-bronze plinth was supplied by the sculptor Henry Westmacott with further mounts by Parker. The plinth harmonised with the base of the chimneypiece, the base of the open cabinets and the base of the celadon pot pourri vase. The exotic extravagance of the Royal Pavilion and George IV’s passion for the Orient and for French decorative art is captured in this extraordinary object.
The Orleans jars
These six large porcelain beaker vases stand over nine feet high, and four were used as oil lamps in the corners of the
Music Room. They consist of early 18th century Chinese porcelain vases with flared upper and lower rims, the central sections of which are in the form of a cylindrical vase, three of which are painted with the arms of Phillippe, duc d’ Orléans, Regent of France from 1715-1723.
Originally free standing vases, they were ordered by the Regent through the French East India Company. Special instructions with armorial designs were sent to China to be incorporated into the decoration. The vases were purchased for the Prince Regent in Paris in 1817 by Jean-Baptiste Watier, a multi-talented figure who as well as acting as George’s furniture and decorative objects scout in Paris, was also at various times confectioner and a collector of rents in Brighton.
On arrival in England the Chinese vases were altered to form lamps by the English porcelain manufacturer Josiah Spode who added the top circular dishes and the stands.
Gilt bronze mounts were then added by the bronze maker and clockmaker, B. L. Vulliamy. Vulliamy’s bill came to the enormous sum of nearly £1,500 whilst Spode charged a relatively modest amount of £277. The 1828 Inventory of the Royal Pavilion describes them as ‘large and magnificent’ and they are most certainly that.
Images for these items and others on loan from the Royal Collection can be found on our asset bank.
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The following credit must accompany all images: Royal Collection Trust/ © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019