Shell-form sweetmeat Dish
Lot 136*
An important London-decorated dish from the Nelson Service, circa 1797
Sold for £11,875 (US$ 19,959) inc. premium
Lot Details
An important London-decorated dish from the Nelson Service, circa 1797
Of Paris porcelain, quatrelobed round shape with a shell shaped handle at one side, the border with brightly enamelled oak leaves and gilded acorns, reserving two panels of blue drapery and gilt inscriptions, the name 'Nelson' appearing twice, with 'Baltic' and '14th February', the centre with the full arms of Horatio, Viscount Nelson, picked out in enamel colours and gilding over a lightly printed outline, 24.5cm wide (slight stacking wear)


  • The Merton Inventory, drawn up after Nelson's death at Trafalgar, lists all of the silver and plate, china and glass that was used by Lady Hamilton and Lord Nelson at the home they shared at Merton. Several china services are identified in the Inventory, including the Horatia Set (of Chamberlain's manufacture), the Nelson Set (the present lot) and the Baltic Set (a related design but without Nelson's arms). The Nelson Set was a dessert service with ice pails and tureens, a centre dish, four oval and four round dishes and twenty-six plates. A Nelson tea service is also listed.

    The origin of the Nelson set is unknown but it is probable that it was presented to Nelson in 1802 by the City of London. In that year Nelson was invited to ride in the Lord Mayor's coach in the inaugural procession of the Lord Mayor. Charlotte Nelson, who inherited the Nelson set, watched the procession and wrote to her mother ...'I wish you could have seen all the people jumping up to the carriage to see my uncle and the thousands of people round him looking up at him... All the ladies had their handkerchiefs out of the windows when my uncle passed, they and the people calling out "Nelson for Ever"'.

    It is likely that the City of London commissioned the set from a London china shop with its own decorating workshop. Much of the set was of Coalport porcelain, for the Coalport factory were the main supplier of 'blanks' for London decorators. The set was augmented with Paris porcelain plates and dishes, suggesting that the set was made in a hurry to be ready in time for the Lord mayor's banquet. For the same reason, a printed outline was used for the armorial decoration. This light outline print identifies this dish as an authentic part of the Nelson Set, contrasted with the hand-painted copies subsequently made in France a hundred years later.

    Although the Merton Inventory lists the china as belonging to Lady Hamilton, it was inherited by Nelson's niece, Charlotte, Duchess of Bronte. She married Samuel Hood, Baron Bridport. On his death in 1868 the china passed to his son, Alexander Nelson, Viscount Bridport. What remained of the Nelson Set was sold in Lord Bridport's sale at Christies in July 1895. An oval dish of Paris porcelain, together with a Coalport plate and cups and saucers from the set, were in the Wentworth Wass Collection, sold in these rooms 6 December 1995, lots 323-326
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