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Matthew Boulton Pair of Antique Sheffield Plate Wine Coolers, c. 1800-10

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These fabulous wine coolers were made by Matthew Boulton's famous Birmingham firm in the elegant neo-Classical style popular in the early Regency period. Of classical urn form, these coolers have fine vertical reeding on their lower half, bold lion mask ring handles and a gadrooned edge to the rim and collar. The detail on the lion masks is superb. Typical of the quality associated with Boulton's shop, these masks are cast, then entirely finished by hand. These details show the quality of work involved.

Both sides of the coolers are crested with an armored leg and the motto 'Sola Virtus Invicta' (virtue alone is invincible) of the Eyre family of St. John's Wood, London. They measure 7.5 inches high, 8 inches in diameter, and are marked with Boulton's sunburst trademark underneath. They are in excellent antique condition, retaining all their original fittings and showing no noticeable rosing.

Matthew Boulton (1740-1806) was an entrepreneur and important maker of decorative arts. As partner of James Watts, Boulton financially backed the invention of the steam engine in 1770. He then became the first important maker of antique Sheffield plate. Hiring the important designers of his day such as Robert Adam and James Wyatt, he made fashionable accessories that appealed to the highest levels of English society.

Boulton's antique Sheffield plate is the most collected of any - many museums have significant quantities of his objects, due in large part to the quality of design and workmanship. There is a certain irony that the most famous maker of antique Sheffield plate was actually located in Birmingham!